1. View Us as Victors, or View Us No More
Such was the scene—what now remaineth here?”
--Lord Byron,‘Canto the Second: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,’ 849-850
Arathorn II heir of Isildur was dead.
The setting sun bathed the fields a sickly crimson. It had rained the day before, and the endless pounding of foot and hoof across the land had reduced it into a quagmire of muck. The slain lie immersed within the mud, their contorted bodies forming ghastly mounds upon the slopes. A cold-hearted onlooker might deem them already buried. Pikes, spears, and poles bearing tattered standards protruded from the earth, marking the fall of enemy and friend alike in listless splinters. The fields ran red and black with blood. It collected in the rain-filled prints of hoof and foot; seeping or coursing in rivulets over the saturated earth to gather in tinted pools.
And Arathorn heir of Isildur was dead.
A lone and statuesque figure stood atop the hillcrest, surveying the gristly scene below. His worn elven cloak, slightly frayed but of fine make, flapped angrily in the coming winds of evening. Ebony hair whipped across a pale and sculpted face. Grey eyes burned with helpless rage. Elladan son of Elrond remained motionless, hand clenching sword handle so tightly his knuckles were white.
“What have we done, my brother? What have we done?”
The Elf lord turned at the stricken voice, finding himself staring into a face which mirrored his own. He found he could not bear the sight. Jaw tightening, he looked away. Too much guilt and sorrow reflected in that face. Hisface. “We have won,” he hoarsely replied. “We have struck the Enemy a grievous blow this day.” Valar, why must the fields run so red with blood? It was everywhere. Even the sun dripped crimson.
“The air tastes of blood,” said Elrohir, gingerly licking his bottom lip. It had been sliced by a lucky blow.
Elladan merely nodded. He knew his twin spoke not of his injuries.
“Yes,” Elrohir murmured, grey eyes sweeping the stained and ravaged fields, “there is much blood. Much blood.”
“We have won,” Elladan repeated vehemently. It was hard to swallow and an excruciating pain had begun to weigh upon his chest. He struggled to control his breathing. “We have won.”
He felt Elrohir swallow thickly. “We have won a field of Death.” The younger twin shuddered. “And Arathorn heir of Isildur is dead!”
He was cold and pale—oddly stiff. The healers had washed away the blood and grime of battle and dressed him in fine clothing, quite a change from his usual drab garments of the Rangers. His dark hair had been brushed and carefully arranged around his shoulders. How the healers managed to set his arms in folded position across the chest, or smooth the final agonized scream from his face, neither Elrohir nor Elladan could say.
Staring dismally at the deceptively peaceful form, Elrohir thought Arathorn looked strangely king-like. A quick exchange of glances with Elladan told him his brother thought much the same.
Elrohir placed a tentative hand upon Arathorn’s brow, closing his eyes and suppressing a shudder at the feel of cold flesh beneath his palm. Elladan stood at his side, and Elrohir took comfort in the warmth radiating from the other.
Elladan grimaced. He had no wish to touch the icy figure stretched before them. And Arathorn, no matter how Elladan might wish to shake the man or rouse him from his slumber, was not going rise. He was not going to suddenly open his eyes—those clear grey eyes that danced with good humor and wisdom. He was not going to suddenly inhale greedily, the strong chest swelling and then shaking with laughter as he berated the twins for their mournful demeanors. And he was not going to warm and lose the blue-grey pallor.
He was dead.
Dead because he had taken an arrow through the eye; dead because the sons of Elrond had craved the screams and body count of the Enemy; dead because they had been too reckless and vengeful—too bloodthirsty—in their battle-lust to realize themselves outnumbered and at horrible disadvantage. Yes, they had “won” in the end, if indeed victory could be claimed. But it was a win without purpose, and a win with a price that was perhaps too great.
Elladan’s gut twisted. He felt Elrohir’s shoulder quiver against his own. Arathorn, Chief of the Dúnedain, a man who should have been in the prime of his life and the future of Middle-earth, was dead. And they—Elladan and Elrohir—were responsible for it. The call to engage the Enemy, the call to charge, had come from their mouths. Their very own lips.
Elrohir’s shoulders sagged, and Elladan felt a strangled sob ripple through his brother. Or had that been from him? He blinked furiously as Arathorn’s still figure began to swim before him, yet still a tear managed to roll unchecked down his cheek.
Elladan licked his lips.
They tasted of blood.
*Title also taken from Lord Byron’s ‘Canto the Second: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.’
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.