30. A Man of Worth
I have come once again to honour your memory, this time accompanied by the grandson who bears your name. Not for the first time does he make the pilgrimage with me, but this year is different. For the first time his father is not with us. Even now my son rides with our king, who leads the Eorlingas once again in fulfillment of the oath taken by the great sire of his house - the oath which our young king took anew when at last the Dark One was defeated, fallen to rise no more.
Alas, that so many good men had to die before that victory was ours. Gladly would I have given my own life, but fate and your selfless actions decreed it otherwise.
I have told my grandson how Éomer fought with us that night. He was but Marshal of the Mark then. Do you remember the great champion of Men who stood with us in that battle? Little did I know that this was he who would be King of Gondor.
Certain it is that you did not know him for the future King, nor do I think you would have cared. The Golden Hall had but one master; Théoden King, whom you served so faithfully. Would you truly have fought him had he refused to lay aside that storied blade?
Glad I was that wiser heads prevailed, for the loss of either of you then would have proven grievous to bear. How many times did Andúril and Gúthwinë shine together as he and our proud young Marshal rallied us in defense of the gates? And ever you went with them, the fire of the righteous warrior burning brightly in your eyes.
One last time I followed you into the fray, drawing strength and courage from your example. Not even that was enough. Our defenses were swept away before the vicious onslaught. Some were driven back to the caves - Éomer gathered all those he was able to hold the enemy at bay at the entance to the Glittering Caves where so many innocents sheltered.
How I managed to stand by your side through the last desperate defense I know not, for we were surrounded by our foes. I do not recall from whence came the blow that should have ended my life. I only know that you were there, standing between me and certain death. The blow was turned aside, and you ordered me to fall back to the stairway where Aragorn stood, firm in his resolve to see as many as possible safely within the Hornburg.
I ran, sure that you were close behind me. Only when I had gained the door did I realize my error. Too late it was, for even Aragorn himself came close to being felled by the enemy.
None had seen what had befallen you in those last moments but I prayed that you had somehow found your way to safety. When I learned the truth, how they had hewn your body where you fell, my grief was matched only by my remorse.
In that moment I vowed that I would strive to be worthy of the life you gave for mine.
author's note: as I started to write this I couldn't get the scene from Saving Private Ryan out of my head, and as I wrote on I recalled the cousin who returned home from Vietnam, missing one leg and bearing the burden to prove himself worthy of the sargent who died trying to get him to safety. This is for him and for my father, who lived through what has often been called the last good war, WWII.
"Yet in doubt a man of worth will trust to his own wisdom." Háma - TTT, "The King of the Golden Hall"
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