Field of Battle, The: 11. Epilogue: The Pauses In Between

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11. Epilogue: The Pauses In Between


Much had taken place by the time Faramir and Aragorn arrived at Ithilien.

Following his encounter with the leader of the Easterling Confederacy, Legolas
had released the enemy, relishing a little the fear in his eyes as the man fled
his sight, burdened with knowledge that he had unleashed something terrible upon
his people by his actions in Eden Ardhon. The call to retreat had seen the
enemy and their mumakils fleeing towards the mountains of Ephel Duath, no doubt
to begin the journey southwards. Legolas had no doubt in his mind that the enemy
would be returning to their own lands following this battle. The leader of the
Confederacy knew Legolas had made no idle threat and that the elves would march
upon the lands of Rhun and Harad in good order.

For the moment, however, Middle earth found itself in the eye of the storm that
was elven rage. Once the enemy had retreated, the men of Ithilien could not
deny that there was intensity to the Eldar’s anger that made them uneasy despite
the elves aid in achieving this victory. Most had never seen elves and those who
had been in their presence before had never seen the race so enraged. While it
was gratifying to know that the elves could be just as prone to the darker
emotions, it was also unnerving at the same time. Fortunately, this rage was
reduced to a simmering heat once the battle was done and the character of the
elven warriors took on a less intimidating air.

Despite their victory against the enemy, the cost was still great. Many
warriors of Ithilien lay dead, killed by the overwhelming numbers of the enemy
prior to the elves’ arrival, or crushed underfoot of the rampaging mumakils. The
fortress of the Eastern Eye had suffered considerable damage with the collapse
of many of its walls. The victors, both men and elf, shifted through the debris
and the rubble, seeking out the injured and the dead. The euphoria of victory
had dwindled into the sombre mood of grief. Even the elves for all their rage,
felt the sorrow for the dead of Ithilien as well as their own. There was to be
no celebration until the dead were buried and mourned.

Into this, did Aragorn and Faramir arrive a day later.

As Legolas had asked, Aragorn led the elves of Eden Ardhon to Minas Tirith for
their own safety. Aragorn was rather doubtful of Legolas’ ability to convince
the intractable Thranduil that the elves should fight but he agreed with the
prince that none of the elves of Eden Ardhon were safe in South Ithilien until
the enemy was driven out of their territories. Upon seeing them safely to the
White City, Aragorn and his company, which included all the warriors of Eden
Ardhon, reached Imrahil who had been in charge of the greater portion of
Gondor’s armies. Upon assuming command of his army, they marched to Emyn Arnen
to await Legolas and to call another council of war. A message had been sent to
Rohan, asking Eomer’s attendance for it appeared the situation required
discussion since their enemies were far stronger than any of them envisioned.

Aragorn could not begin to imagine what was running through the mind of Faramir,
son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor when he arrived at Emyn Arnen and saw the
Eastern Eye in near ruin. When the message had first reached them of the
impending attack upon the fortress and the subsequent reports that told of
another army approaching Emyn Arnen from the south instead of the north, they
had feared the worst and rightly so. Realising that it was likely that the
Haradrim army that had assailed Lossarnach was merging with the Easterlings who
had sacked Eden Ardhon, both king and steward came to the conclusion that the
defense of Ithilien could not possibly repel an army of that size.

Faramir had remained sedate until the Eastern Eye had come into sight.
In stark contrast to his brother Boromir, Aragorn had learned that Faramir
preferred to think his way out of difficulty rather than fight. Like all men he
was prone to bursts of temper, but these were rare. It was not Faramir’s way to
rush in without thinking. It was a shame that Denethor had put such little stock
in his second son because the truth of it, at least in Aragorn’s opinion, was
that Faramir would have been far better suited to rule then his older brother.
As Steward, he was invaluable to Aragorn because his was a meticulous mind,
paying attention to every detail of a situation where Aragorn’s view was much
broader. Together, they made a formidable team and Aragorn had come to regard
him as greatly as he regarded Faramir’s dead brother.

When the lord of Ithilien saw his realm in such a state of ruin, that calm
deliberation had vanished to near panic and for someone like Faramir who had
learned to control his emotions to hide from his father the pain of rejection,
it quite something to see his deconstruction. Despite the timely arrival of the
elves from Lorien and the Woodland Realm, Aragorn knew that Faramir feared the
fate of not only his people but also his wife. As they walked past the bodies of
the dead awaiting burial, the king of Gondor wondered how many times he would be
forced to do this, to arrive with his friends to scenes of terrible tragedy.

“Where is the Lady Eowyn?” Faramir demanded the moment he entered what passed
for the royal court of Ithilien.

Anticipating the first order of business for their lord upon his return, the
summons was given to Tadgh, the chief physician in the house of healing. The man
made his appearance before Aragorn’s efforts to calm him down fail quickly and
Faramir went searching for Eowyn himself. Tadgh appeared worn and exhausted,
his clothes covered with blood and grime, stark indication of how the healer had
spent his days since the war had been brought to the Ithilien.

“She is well my lord,” Tadgh said quickly, allaying the Steward’s worst fears.

“Where is she?” Faramir asked again. “Why does she not come to meet me?”

“She is resting,” Tadgh offered immediately.

”Was she injured?” Aragorn asked as he saw Faramir’s relief that Eowyn still
lived.

“Yes,” Tadgh nodded. “During the battle.”

“She was fighting?” Gimli exclaimed

“Did you think she would not?” Aragorn gave him a look.

“It was the reason I asked her to remain here,” Faramir said softly. “I know how
formidable she is in battle and I wanted her to remain here so that she could
give hope to our people if difficult times came upon Ithilien in my absence. How
badly was she hurt?” He looked up fearfully at Tadgh’s face, almost afraid to
ask.

“Her leg was broken and she took a nasty knock to the head but she survived well
enough,” Tadgh was happy to report. “However, I prefer that she remain in her
bed for a time. It is never wise to gamble with the lady’s health under these
circumstances.”

“What circumstances?” Faramir stared at him, the gratitude flooding into his
body that Eowyn was not dead or grievously injured, stopped short with that
seemingly curious statement.

“She is with child,” Tadgh responded without hesitation and did not realise
until the blank astonishment had crossed his lord’s face that he had spoken out
of turn. “You did not know?”

“With child?” Faramir stammered.

“Yes,” the healer nodded. “Due in the summer I believe.”

Faramir was at a loss for words and for a moment, he did not know what to say.
Suddenly, the pieces felt together in place. Her strange behaviour prior to his
leaving Ithilien, the reason why she agreed that it was not her place to fight
or to travel. She had known! She had known then and not told him. He understood
why of course and it was very much in keeping with her character for she was at
the heart of her, a warrior and understood the danger of distractions.

“Congratulations my boy!” Gimli slapped him on the back with that hearty wish.

“This is good news Faramir,” Aragorn said with real pleasure for his friend
because it proved life prevailed despite all the death surrounding them. This
was news of great hope to all of them, particularly after the dark days they had
seen of late. “I am happy for you.”

“Thank you,” Faramir replied, still somewhat dazed by it all. He knew of only
one remedy that could assuage his state of mind.

He needed to see his wife.

*************

As anticipated, his lady was not at all happy to be confined to bed even for the
sake of her health.

Faramir paused at the doorway after entering their private chambers and saw
Eowyn lying in her bed, attempting shift her broken foot into a position of
comfort with the only thing that was close at hand; her sword. Leaning forward
was apparently too much for her as she resorted this most unconventional method
of moving her leg to a more comfortable position. Faramir watched her engaged in
this activity for a moment, reluctant to give himself away because he wanted to
simply look at her and bask in the pleasure at knowing that she lived and that
she was carrying his child.

“You know I am certain that was not the intended use of that weapon,” Faramir
announced himself with a smile after she had dropped Anglachel on the floor with
frustration.

Eowyn looked up at him and broke in a radiant smile before answering in
character, “well what am I to do when you are not here?”

Faramir closed the distance between them and gently her shifted her broken leg
so she would be more at ease. “Is that better?”

“Much,” she answered and felt even better when he leaned over and met her lips
with a gentle kiss. Husband and wife shared a moment of tender embrace and more
passionate kisses before Faramir pulled away and Eowyn glowed with pleasure at
seeing him.
“You received our message?” She asked.

“Yes,” he nodded as he circled the bed and nestled himself in the empty space
beside her. “We rode here as quickly as possible but it appears we were not
needed.”

“You were needed,” Eowyn remarked resting her head against his shoulder, happy
that he was with her again because it was when she was at her most vulnerable
that she could truly appreciate how wonderful he was. “I needed you.”

“I would ride through fire for you,” Faramir met her gaze, meaning it with
earnest.

“I know,” she sighed, her hand reaching for his face with affection. “I am glad
you are here now for I wish to tell you something. I should have told you before
you left to join our armies but I was afraid that it would make it so much
harder for you leave. I was wrong in that and I am sorry.”

“Eowyn,” Faramir took her hand from his cheek and squeezed it gently in his own.
“Tadgh told me. You are with child.”

“Yes,” she nodded, wishing that she could have told him herself but it no longer
mattered as long as he knew. “I did not wish to keep you from doing what was
necessary. I feared that you would worry leaving me if you knew. I am sorry my
love, it was not my intention to hide from you the truth.”

“I will worry about you Eowyn,” Faramir answered firmly, grateful for her
consideration though he would have preferred the benefit of the doubt. Still,
she thought very much like a woman in such matters, even if she could fight as
well as any man. “As long as I live, I will worry about you because I love you.
Whether or not I stay here in Ithilien at your side until the end of our days or
journey across the world that will not change. However my concern for you does
not alter my responsibilities to my king or to my country. I will gladly fight
any battle because I know what I fight for will ensure that our child will never
know war. For that I would go anywhere and fight anyone. You need not worry
about such news distracting me. How can it be when I know that distraction will
only keep me from making this world a better place our child?”

“Our son,” Eowyn declared with surprising certainty.

“It matters little to me if it is a boy or a girl,” he shrugged and surprised
himself by meaning it. He was not Denethor “I will love it all the same.”

“It is a boy,” she repeated herself, her eyes dancing with absolute confidence
in her belief. “I am certain of it.”

“How?” He regarded with one brow cocked.

“A woman knows these things,” she said smugly, amusing herself with the fact
that her response would frustrate him to no end.

“That is not an answer,” he insisted with a frown, aware that she was teasing
him. This was not a new debate. “Men never say such things. We do not presume to
know without proof how things can be.”

“Well is it not obvious why?” Eowyn stared at him impatiently, her lips curling
into a little smile.

“No,” he snorted, giving her a look. “It is not.”

“You are not women,” she quipped as if it were the most logical thing in the
world.

Faramir rolled his eyes and cried defeat. There were times when it was far
easier battling the enemy than attempting to understand his wife.

*************

Eomer was hardly surprised when the message reached him at the Golden Hall of
Meduseld.

In truth, he had been expecting it ever since he learnt of the attack upon Eden
Ardhon. Since the beginning of hostilities at Lebethron, it was clear that none
of the leaders of the Ruling Council of Middle earth knew what they faced. On
each front, they had been taken by surprise and attacked in large numbers. It
was a sad fact but true, that the past weeks had shown them quite clearly that
the enemy far more organised than they had managed to be. Their victory against
Sauron had made them over confident and as a result, their people had paid the
price for their mistake. They needed to determine a plan of attack or a darkness
equal to Sauron’s plans for Middle earth may take place after all.

If the request for an attendance to a council meeting did not surprise Eomer,
then the appearance of Imrahil at his court to deliver it, certainly was. The
Prince of Dol Amroth had taken the opportunity to ride to Rohan in order to see
for himself, the welfare of his daughter while the armies of Gondor led by
Aragorn, continued their journey to Ithilien. Imrahil and Eomer had become
friends during the War of the Ring. Eomer had ridden at Theoden’s side when the
Rohirrim rode to Gondor. Though very different from Theoden, Imrahil had proved
himself to be a man of honour and their friendship had strengthened through the
passage of years.

Admittedly, Eomer was rather glad to see Imrahil in the Golden Hall because the
presence of her father would certainly brighten Lothiriel spirits. Since the
attack upon Edoras and the incident in the catacombs when Lothiriel had used her
magic to protect the women and children hiding in the caves during the battle,
the lady of Dol Amroth had been greatly trouble. Eomer sensed it had to do with
the having to see the faces of the men she had sent to death. She had used her
powers earlier that day to escape the Dunlendings in order to reach Edoras to
raise the alarm. Then she had been so afraid, that her eyes had been closed
tightly so that she would see nothing except the evidence of her sorcery when
the danger was passed.

It was quite something else to see them die, to see the life drain out of them.
To know that everything they would ever in this world or to the ones they loved,
was extinguished in an instant and then to remember that she was responsible,
that she had been the reason for the diminishing light in their eyes. Eomer
understood Lothiriel’s anguish far better than she could have possibly imagined.
He was a warrior born, it was all that he had ever known but the first time he
had killed had changed him forever. If it were one of his men, he would have
told them that it was simply the nature of things, a blooding ritual required of
every soldier throughout the ages. He did not know how to say the same things to
Lothiriel and it broke his heart that he was unable because he could see her
pain and it stabbed at him like a knife.

“I am glad that you are here Prince of Dol Amroth,” Eomer said as he accompanied
Imrahil to the garden where Lothiriel could be found, once the greetings were
done. “Your daughter needs you.”

“Why?” Imrahil stared at him, a silvery dark brow cocked up in question and
suspicion. Imrahil had not been completely comfortable with his daughter
remaining in Edoras despite his pleasure that Lothiriel and Eomer genuinely
cared for each other. It was not proper and in all truth, he had more than
sufficient grounds to demand Eomer marry his daughter after her unchaperoned
stay in the Golden Hall.

“During the attack upon Edoras by the Dunlending curs,” Eomer began with more
venom then he intended. “The women and children were taken to the catacombs
below the city to wait in safety. Your daughter went with them and acquitted
herself as well as any Lady of Edoras. You would have been so proud of her
Imrahil, she kept her head and ensured no one lost hope.”

“She has always had strength,” Imrahil said warmly. He loved his only daughter
deeply in spite of her eccentricities. “It exists within her as more than just
her magic but in her character as well. She is determined and brave.”

“Qualities which she proved most adeptly when the Dunlendings found the
sanctuary and broke through,” Eomer declared.

“Is she alright?” Imrahil asked with natural alarm, the atrocities at Eden
Ardhon too fresh in his mind to allow him to take such news calmly.

“She is fine,” Eomer said quickly, assuaging Imrahil’s fears. “They however, are
not. Imrahil, she used her magic and saved all of those in hiding with her. We
found them buried alive in the ground, as if they had been drowned in sand. I
believe Lothiriel saw them die as her spell unfolded. She does not seemed to
have suffered physical injury but her soul carries their deaths heavily.”

Imrahil drew in a breath and uttered a short, sardonic laugh devoid of humour.
“This discussion in one I expect to have with my sons, not my daughter.”

“She did what was necessary,” Eomer said in Lothiriel’s defense though he need
not have worried. “If she had not, none of the women and children would have
survived.”

“We both know that the intention behind the taking a life, no matter how right
the cause does not ease the conscience of those who are called upon to commit
the act,” Imrahil answered softly. “When my sons rode into combat for the first
time, I explained to them the way of things as I expect you do to the men under
your command.”

“Yes,” Eomer nodded. “If I could tell her the way I tell them it would be simple
because we are Rohirrim, we live and we die for the survival of our people. I do
not know how to console Lothiriel in this. I love her Imrahil and it pains me to
see her so grieved. The Dunlendings she killed would not feel this same remorse
in her place, if they even deign to think of it at all.”

“Then I will speak to her,” Imrahil smiled, squeezing Eomer’s shoulder in
affection.

“There is one other thing,” Eomer spoke up because there was little time to
waste and because they would soon be riding for Ithilien.

“Yes?” The Prince of Dol Amroth regarded the King of the Mark.

“You and I must leave for Ithilien as soon as possible in order to attend the
meeting of the council,” Eomer spoke as if his next words were finding
difficulty leaving his throat but it had to be said. “When I leave the Golden
Hall, I would like to leave it in the hands of my queen. Lothiriel has earned
the right to be my queen and she was far more certain of our love then I. I wish
to marry your daughter before we depart Edoras.”

Imrahil absorbed Eomer’s request and knew that the young king was quite smitten
by his daughter and there was no doubt as to his affection for her. With the
times so uncertain, it was understandable that Eomer would desire the joining
with Lothiriel sooner rather than later. It pleased Imrahil to no end because he
had thought up the match to begin with but he would commit his child to nothing
until he had spoken to her. If Eomer was right and his Lothiriel was in pain,
then that was the first order of business for the Prince of Dol Amroth.

“You have my consent to marry her Eomer and my blessing,” his future father in
law smiled. “Now let me see my daughter.”

*************

Eomer had been correct that Imrahil’s presence would be the tonic needed to lift
Lothiriel’s spirits. Upon seeing him, the young lady of Dol Amroth ran quickly
into her father’s embrace, almost overjoyed at his arrival. The past few days
had left her in a deep state of melancholy that no amount of comforting words by
Eomer could assuage. Although she knew what she had done was necessary,
Lothiriel could not forget the image of those men as they died. It had burned
itself into her memory like a branding iron and despite her reluctance to admit
it; she knew she would never be the same again.

Imrahil could see immediately that Eomer was right in his assertion that
Lothiriel was marked by her actions in the catacombs. In truth, he was rather
proud of her and growing more so of late because she had proven him wrong that
she would never be able to be a magician of any note. Her resourcefulness had
saved the kingdom from the shape shifter threat, which would have proved to be
an even greater menace to the people of Middle earth, than the war they were
presently fighting. However, despite all her progress these recent months,
Lothiriel still came from a sheltered upbringing, one that never meant for her
to single-handedly vanquish a number of rabid tribesmen braying for blood.

”It is so good to see you father,” Lothiriel said with genuine pleasure, the
first she had felt in some time.

“When I learnt that the king desired a meeting between all the members of the
ruling council, I took the opportunity to play messenger so that I may visit you
here and see how my daughter fares,” Imrahil answered as they both sat on a
stone seat in the gardens she liked so well. It had suffered a little damage
during the battle but it still provided her with enough beauty to make her
troubles seem very far away indeed.

“I fare well,” she lied and was certain he knew it but it was a conditioned
response.

“The king tells me you saved a good number of his people,” Imrahil remarked,
wishing to draw out the truth about what had happened from her. It would help
immensely if she revealed her feelings on what she had done.

“I did so by taking a good many lives,” Lothiriel replied turning away, unable
to look at him because she was so ashamed.

“Child,” Imrahil placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and commanded firmly in a
voice she could not disobey, “look at me.”

Lothiriel faced him with glistening eyes.

Imrahil let out a deep breath and wiped the moisture from her eyes with one
fingertip, “I do not know how to bandy about words that will make this any
better for you. There is no consolation to the heart when one has taken a life.
It marks you inside, no matter how much you wished it did not. I will say to you
the same thing that I have said to both your brothers when they have been forced
to ride into combat. In war, people die. Those are the rules we must abide. We
cannot change them because it is the way of things. War is not meant to be
chivalry and glory. It is a dirty, ugly business that leaves the mark of blood
upon your hands for all time. Yet if you spilled that blood in good conscience,
in full awareness that there was no other recourse, then you have nothing to be
ashamed of.”

“Oh father!” Lothiriel cried out, her fragile emotional state crumbling
instantly. “I cannot forget their eyes as they died, knowing that they were
going to die, because of me! How can I bear this weight upon my soul? I know
they would not have mourned me if it were me in their place but it make little
difference to how I feel.”

“Lothiriel,” her father took her hands in his and met her gaze, “you must learn
to live with it. There is no remedy, not in words or magic that can make this
expedient. It is simply is as I have spoken. You will learn to live with it, as
many of us who have killed in our lifetimes have learnt, because we must. Your
life will continue and in time, the pain will lessen. You have the love of your
family, a king who is most eager to marry you and your magic.”

“No,” she shook her head, “not my magic. I will never use it again.”

Imrahil wondered if she ought to dissuade her but decided to remain silent for
the moment. Time was a healer and he suspected once her heart was not so ravaged
by what had taken place, she would think differently. “That is your choice but
for now, you have greater concerns to consider.”

“Greater concerns?” Lothiriel wiped her eyes, accepting what her father had said
because he was the one source, which she found more irrefutable than all others.
When he had chosen Eomer to her husband, Lothiriel learnt how much his father
knew her because his selection had been made to further her happiness, not to
sell her into slavery as she had originally believed. If she said that she would
survive this, then she would believe him. Imrahil may have been angry and
sometimes harsh because of her behaviour, but he had never lied to her about
anything.

“Yes,” Imrahil nodded, certain she had not really heard when he had spoken about
Eomer’s desire to marry her. “Eomer will be riding to Ithilien with me as soon
as possible. It is important that we decide what course we are to take to combat
the enemy. The King of the Mark wishes to leave Edoras in the hands of its
queen when he departs. He wants to marry you and I have consented.”

Lothiriel eyes widened, “he said he wanted to wait…”

“Perhaps once,” Imrahil said with a smile because the idea of marrying her king
did not displease Lothiriel and had lit up her eyes with something other than
grief. “I think you have proved yourself worthy of his people and he loves you,
it shines from his eyes when he speaks of you.”

”I love him,” Lothiriel answered without hesitation.

“Well then, it is settled,” Imrahil grinned, “it appears we have a wedding to
attend today.”

And so it came to pass that Lothiriel of Dol Amroth was wed finally to King
Eomer of Rohan before the court of Edoras, with her father, the Lord of Dol
Amroth in attendance. Though Eomer would have preferred to gather all his
friends across Middle earth for the ceremony, expediency required him to
proceed. He promised himself that once this war was done, he and his queen would
celebrate their union with more fanfare. As it was, the people of Edoras who
knew that this was union of love, not merely of political convenience, were
terribly pleased for their beloved king and attended the ceremony even it if
lacked the fanfare of grandeur.

It was simply enough that in the midst of some much destruction, there was life.


Lothiriel and Eomer shared one night together as husband and wife, discovering
secret pleasures in each other that only deepened the bond between them. He was
gentle and patient with her, making the experience of the body a wonderful
experience she would keep with her until they were able to share another night
together again. When he rode away to Ithilien the next morning, there were no
tearful farewells, just a passionate kiss and promise to take care while they
were apart. Lothiriel stood before the Golden Hall and watched as her king rode
into the distance, knowing that time not only healed all wounds but would also
bring him back to her.

*************

For the first time since this conflict had been thrust upon them, the leaders of
Middle earth found themselves gathered in each other’s company once again. As
they converged within the meeting hall of Faramir’s fortress, the effect of the
war was evident upon all them. Personal defeats marked their countenance; from
the very slight to grievous wounds no amount of time could heal. In better days,
they were more than just allies, they were friends but as they sat around the
table in the great hall, devoid of any other presence, they faced each other as
leaders of their own realms. For the moment, friendships could wait because war
had come to Middle earth and allies had more weight in such times.

Aragorn swept his gaze across his friends despite the serious atmosphere in the
room and found his concern largely centred around Legolas. He and the elf had
been friends for the better part of sixty years and it was the first time
Aragorn had ever seen this side of him. To say that it was unnerving was to put
it mildly and it appeared that Legolas’ outrage at what had happened at Eden
Ardhon had only served to stoke the rest of the elves into a similar state of
fury. When he had arrived with Faramir at Emyn Arnen and seen the results of
the elves surprising entry into the war, he had been astonished by the savagery
that had seen half the Easterling army lying dead on the battlefield.

Of course he knew they had it in them to be so blood thirsty. The elves had
warred longer than any other race in Middle earth and though it might appear
that they were a peaceful, tranquil people, it was never wise to assume too
much. When properly inspired or provoked, their fury burned brighter than
Yavanna’s light in the sky. Only a day ago, Gwaihir, the Windlord had delivered
to Aragorn a message from Elladan and Elrohir at Imlardis. While they did not
desire to leave their father’s city for such an extended period of time, they
were willing to commit troops in the defence of Rohan since Eomer’s Rohirrim
cavalry would almost certainly be needed on the front lines.

Haldir sat at the table next to Legolas, representing Lord Celeborn in this
council. It was the first time Celeborn had deigned to take part in matters of
men since his departure from Lothlorien. However, the real surprise was
Thranduil. The Woodland King had a reputation for being uninterested in any
matters beyond the Woodland Realm. That he had provided his son with an army
would almost be unbelievable if not for the thousands of Easterlings corpses in
the process of burning in a funeral pyre beyond the fortress walls.

“Well let’s get on with it,” Gimli rumbled, never able to sit in place too long
in silence. The sombre faces around the dwarf were making the situation even
more intolerable for the dwarf who decided to take it upon himself to prompt the
proceedings forward. “We have a great deal to discuss.”

“Well said Master Gimli,” Aragorn replied, deciding that he was right. They had
been caught unawares by everything until now and that they had not managed to
lose any territory was mere good luck, nothing else. Luck, Aragorn found, was
seldom an eternal spring and would eventually run dry. “The Rangers have sighted
the army of the enemy retreating southwards. They may be returning home.”

“After their loses here, it would not be unsurprising,” Faramir agreed,
remembering the scenes of carnage as well. However, he did not feel any sense of
compassion for the enemy that had been killed, not when Eowyn and their unborn
child had barely managed to survive the engagement. “The question is do we let
them go or do we follow them?”

“We follow them,” Legolas said firmly and not unexpectedly. “We follow them all
the way to their cities and burn it down around their ears.”

“We could do that but I am not entirely certain that is wise,” Aragorn replied.

“I do not see why not,” Legolas shot him a look. “They have plagued these lands
for as long as can be remembered, even before this. First, yoked to Morgoth’s
harness and then to Sauron. This is only the latest incursion and it will not be
the last unless we put a stop to it.”

The intensity of his words made it difficult for anyone to refute him and
Aragorn could see that even Haldir was somewhat taken back by the venom in
Legolas’ manner.

“I must agree with Lord Legolas in this,” Eomer found himself saying. “Rohan is
drenched with blood because the enemy had incited the Dunlendings and the
goblins of Moria to become involved in this conflict. Leaderless, they were
nothing but rabble, having little desire to stray beyond their territories. Now
they have spread to the White Mountains in Rohan and dare to attack Edoras. No,”
Eomer shook his head. “This cannot be allowed to continue. The Confederacy must
be broken or else we will never know anything more than an intermittent peace.”

Imrahil could see his king’s discomfort at the concept of leading all of Middle
earth to war and attempted to speak in a more conciliatory tone. He too agreed
with what was being said. With the exception of the elves, Imrahil had
experienced more Easterling aggression than anyone present. For years, the
enemy both with and without Sauron’s endorsement had plagued Gondor.

“Sire,” he turned his gaze to the king. “For as long as we can remember, the
Haradrim and the Easterlings had constantly waged war against Gondor. Whether it
was at the insistence of Sauron or through their own auspices, they have made it
clear that there will never be a peace so long as they are allowed to govern
themselves. We have never pursued them back into their lands, we have never been
strong enough. Not for many ages have we been allied together as strongly as we
are now, we will neve have another opportunity and I fear if we do not take it,
they will simply lick their wounds and return when their numbers have risen
again.”

“I know,” Aragorn offered Imrahil a grateful smile. He knew all these things but
he was not a warring man by nature and an offensive campaign was not a course he
was comfortable with, no matter what the justification. “I have long attempted
to avert this very situation from becoming a reality but I must concede that all
your arguments have good weight and that they will never cease their attacks
upon our lands unless we put a stop to it in theirs. Their leader has united
them and has conspired with others in our lands to war against us in order to
weaken our defences. We must show them the consequences of their actions.”

Aragorn paused a moment, drawing his breath because he had spent a great deal of
time considering how they would proceed once this inevitable decision was made.
“We will leave one third of our forces behind to bolster the defences of our
cities. Master Gimli, are your people agreeable to aid Rohan and harbour some
of the its people in case of an attack?”

“Most certainly,” Gimli replied boisterously. “There is plenty of room in
Aglarond and if we have to, we can certainly repair the damage at the Hornburg
and return it to its former strength.”

“Rohan thanks you,” Eomer said to him warmly.

“In addition,” Aragorn added. “Imlardis will despatch what warriors it can to
defend your realm should the Dunlendings and the goblins attempt to attack
Edoras again. That will leave the Westfold protected while the armies remaining
here will protect Ithilien and Gondor. Faramir, it would be wise if you sent
Eowyn to Minas Tirith as soon as she is fit to travel. Your women and children
should move further away from the border. I do not think the enemy will attempt
to attack once they learn that we are marching towards their lands but it is a
wise precaution nevertheless.”

“It will be done,” Faramir nodded in agreement with all of Aragorn’s orders,
particularly the suggestion that Eowyn should be sent to the White City. He knew
she would protest this but he would have her there even if he were forced to
send her there across the back of a horse, bound and gagged.

“The question now remains, in which direction do we go?” Aragorn eased back into
his chair, waiting for the council to comment.

“We go to Harad,” Legolas declared without hesitation.

His response was unexpected for they were all certain that he would have
preferred to pursue the Easterlings into their homeland in vengeance for what
they had done to Melia and the elves of Eden Ardhon. Legolas was well aware of
all eyes upon him and supposed that they could not be blamed for their surprise.
After all, his actions of late had done nothing to disprove their belief that
the elves were waging a very different kind even if they were allies in this
conflict. However, Legolas’ desire for justice did not blind him to the fact
that it was war they were fighting and their strategy had to be based on
expediency not emotion.

“You were right,” Legolas explained himself as his eyes met Aragorn’s. “Their
leader is among the Haradrim. If we can defeat them, we will show our enemies at
home that their allies in the south are not as strong as they believed and it
would be wise to desist in any further provocative action. The Easterlings look
to Harad for their instructions, without it they are leaderless and divided. We
can deal with them at a later time. I say that it is at Harad that we first
strike.”

“He makes a good point,” Gimli remarked in agreement. “We should cut off the
beast’s head and watch the rest of it flounder.”

“Are we in agreement of this?” Aragorn stared at the face around him and saw
grim approval in their eyes. What lay before them was a campaign that would
take them into unfamiliar territory and separate them from their loved ones for
many months, if not years. However, it had to be done. Too much blood had been
split, to many lives left in ruin because of the enemy’s refusal to believe that
peaceful coexistence was possible.

“Yes,” came a chorus of unanimous replies, leaving no question about the course
they were agreeing to take.

For so long Aragorn had tried to avert this. Since becoming king, Aragorn had
sought to reconcile the races of men and mend the wounds that had kept them at
war for so many years. He had made gestures and attempts at goodwill and the
outcome of all that effort was to have the Confederacy raising enemies on the
borders of everyone of his allies. Innocents had been murdered and people close
to his heart had been brutalized and hurt. No more.

There was a time for peace and time to fight. They were beyond even that now.

Legolas was right in what he had told the Haradrim king. They were coming and
nothing was going to stop them.

The enemy had wanted war, what it would receive would be annihilation.

THE END FOR NOW.



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.

Story Information

Author: Scribe

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 04/07/03

Original Post: 04/03/03

Go to Field of Battle, The overview

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