1. On the Wings of Eagles
They are buried already beneath a shroud of cinder and ash and he can no longer tell where his hand begins and the other ends. They are one and together and he lifts the corners of his mouth in what wants to be a smile but is simply too weak to become anything other than a jaded sigh.
It is the end and this should make him sad but somehow it does not. It is over and the emptiness that hollows him and makes him wish he could shed tears from his dry eyes will soon be but the tatters of his mortal existence. The fire will soon approach and fill the void as it consumes the body that is too weary to writhe with the pain of it. The fire has been as constant a companion to him as the one who clutches his hand and he is ready now to succumb to the one within the steadfast hold of the other.
He is numb and empty and he cannot feel the intensity of the flames that hungrily lick at his toes, cannot feel the burning in his lungs as they gasp spasmodically for a few last breaths before they seize with the heat and cease their struggle at last. He feels only the hand he grasps and that is all that matters. It is enough. It is everything.
Burning cinder and flaming ash fall all about him and he follows the spiraling trails of scarlet to the ebony stone as it’s coated in a sooty layer of soft ash. He pulls in a small, harsh breath and the powder coats his throat with its blistering residue, scorches his aching lungs with the heat of the fury of the mountain.
His ears are filled with the snarls and bellows of a mountain betrayed. It shrieks its rage into the writhing whirlwind and beats its wrath at the earth in its fiery death throes. The tumult deafens him but a song of comfort and home tumbles through his mind in the clear voice of his friend. The lips do not move, no sound escapes the throat, but it matters not. His friend croons to him in a voice that tumbles from his heart and no sound is necessary for the melody to reach his own heart and pulse within it.
His vision darkens and he quickly lifts his eyes to those of his friend. He wants his last sight to be one of love before the darkness comes for him and engulfs him in its black silence.
He fastens his stinging eyes on those of his friend, only inches away from his own. He sees only their chestnut depths, ignoring the dancing orange and glints of gold that glimmer in pale reflection of the blaze that advances upon them. He casts himself into them and feels them surround him and embrace him with the warmth of sunlit fields and purpose-less romps through meadows of grass taller than his head and the color of sharpest green. They drape across his shoulders with the tender ease of cool, clear water flowing over his ankles and silten mud squelching through his toes. They pull him close and ease his weary bones with whispers of soft, silvery moonlight and the pleasant hum of noisy rooms clouded with earthy scents of Longbottom leaf and Southfarthing ale.
He is glad to have his friend with him here, his only regret that his friend will perish with him. It should make him sad but again it does not. He wishes he could have spared him from this lonely, fiery end, but cannot help the relief that he will not die alone. That his friend will be with him when they cross from the mortal world. That they can rejoice together when emptiness and pain are but distant memories of their short, tenuous existence in this world that has gone so wrong so quickly. He is glad to leave it and he is glad that his friend will follow.
The heat descends and begins to gnaw at the pleasant numbness of his frozen limbs. The crucible has burst its confines and its molten slag marches in a slow, inexorable advance upon those who dared defy it. The air blanches his throat as he drags it into his hitching chest. The end has come and he is ready.
He pulls in a last painful breath and expels it slowly on a name, croaking it out through cracked lips to whirl with the ash that blankets them.
He closes his eyes and waits for the fire to end him.
Heated air and black soot in sudden gusts swirl about him and the hand is wrenched free from his clinging grasp and he cries out with the loss of it. It was all that remained to him and now that too has been stripped from him and he is once again empty and defeated. Alone in the chaos and tumult with nothing but the searing heat and his own empty heart thumping in his ears.
Pressure all around and it steals the breath from his aching lungs in a small wheeze. He is lifted through the smoking blaze and spirals up, up until the turmoil below is reduced to blurred greys and blacks pulsing with turbulent orange against a clear sky of pale blue. Tendrils of smoky wisps follow and cling to his fingers as if trying to hold to their prey and pull him back to the pyre upon which his destiny lies. He is suspended in clear sunlight and it lances his dry and burning eyes with daggers of golden beauty tinged with dusky rose.
He closes his eyes and reaches out for Sam with grasping fingers, for surely this is the other side and their mortal bodies have been consumed. Surely Sam has followed him here to the end of all things and he has but to find him with his outstretched, pleading hands.
He listens for the heartbeat that has been his lullaby for months without end. He strains his ears and hears a steady thrum in the disturbance of the air around him and he smiles because this must be the pulsing of Sam’s heart reaching out to guide him, to pull them together in this, their death. Sam has led him through terror and darkness and he would not abandon him now. He needs but to wait and his friend will reach out and pull him close and their souls will meld and the emptiness and pain will drip from his body and heart as so many tears.
The visions of his home and heart that have been denied him for so long now parade through his mind in joyful reunion. He sees the ones he loves in sparkling relief behind his closed eyes and would weep if his tears would but come.
Tackled into a tangle of gangly limbs and bubbling laughter. Heads of shimmering copper and chaffed wheat descend upon him with smiles of mirth and demands of surrender as he rolls and pins his giggling cousins beneath his own wiry frame, trembling with laughter.
Flaming chrysanthemums and shooting stars blazing to sulphury puffs of smoke to the cheers and whistles of the crowd below.
Held fast in a warm embrace and his mother’s eyes as a lilting lullaby carries him into a soft slumber that does not yet know heartache or despair.
Led to a fertile patch of earth by warm, callused hands and blunt fingers carefully point out the delicate buds of the rosebush he had been so sure had bloomed its last.
Faded blue eyes made bright by youthful twinkle and loving invitation, ‘You had better come and live here, Frodo my lad, and then we can celebrate our birthday-parties comfortably together.’
An aching sadness for those loved and lost assails him but cannot overcome his relief at the end to his road. He casts his mind to his cousins, his companions, his home and wishes he might see them once more before his end but rejoices that it is indeed his end that he now revels in. The emptiness will leave him soon, he trusts. He has but to wait until Sam finds him.
A sudden jostle and lift and strong arms surround him in a shimmering white embrace that dazzles his soul in its strength and warmth. He is pressed to a soft shoulder upon which he remembers having wept before. Wisps of silken hair brush his cheek and the sound of weeping reaches his ears.
He opens his scorched eyes to behold the wizard in his white raiment of death, bent over him in mourning and grief. He smiles and opens his parched mouth to tell his friend that he is glad he has come to meet him. That it’s alright now. They are together in death and Sam is sure to follow and he will not be empty or weary or in pain any longer. He wants to tell the wizard there is no need for sadness, that his heart is glad at last, now that his end has finally come to claim him.
The words are stillborn on his lips as he reaches a hand up to stroke the wrinkled cheek and it brushes along the breast of the white robe to leave a trail of crimson in its wake. He stares, dumbfounded at the scarlet streak and his mind retreats in horror at what it means.
It cannot be. Fate would not be so cruel. No Power would take from him that which he has longed for in his deepest heart for so long. It would not steal him from the jaws of blissful death only to live in emptiness. It would not sentence him to slog through the void in his spirit with no hope of release or respite. It would not leave him with a heart broken and empty, its last drops of lifeblood squeezed through the pitiless fingers of a small band of gold. It would not doom him to live.
He looks into the wizard’s eyes. He sees a well of bottomless grief and he knows.
He closes his eyes and casts himself to the depths of his own soul where his sobs and shrieks of anger and agony echo in his mind and lead him to the darkness that waits for him there. He folds himself within his empty heart and weeps in the blackness.
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.