2. Gentle Soldier of My Soul
In stillness, under the stars his voice came to me with the quietness I remember; from our first meeting in Rivendell, from under the great trees in the Golden Wood, from the last words I truly heard him say to me after I fell. I saw the tower, a spike of pearl in the morning, and I heard him speak clearly:
“With all that was between us how can we now be estranged? I would not lose you. That we became as strangers to ourselves took even me by surprise. I - I would never have considered our affection - no, I will not deny it - our love to have been possible – and… my one wish is to wake with you by my side. I have travelled many paths through my life, paths of wonder, paths of fear, there is still one road left for me to travel and that I now do willingly. In all this world there is nothing that will keep me from you. When this place becomes but shadows I will search for you. Wait for me. I will come. Look for me in the East, in the red house of morning, I will come to you.”
His eyes held all that promise to me and more. The dream faded like the smoke of war to become ashes in my mouth, and still, alone, I walk this distant shore. I watch the breakers crash and roll, and wait here for the gentle soldier of my soul.
I have a kingdom, I have a noble wife, a fine son and lovely daughters, and the satisfaction of redeeming my line and undoing to some degree the folly and weakness of my ancestors – but… Why is there always a ‘but’ in this life? If the Valar brought me before them and said; ‘what of this would you exchange to have him back?’ I would have to think long and hard, for in all conscience how ever much I long to have him at my side, there is much that I cannot see undone. It would be a disservice to his honour and to mine. The Elves taught me patience – it is something immortals have in plenty, the realisation that the brief candles of our mortal lives must run their course in their own time. I do not hurry through my span here, that would be to dismiss the lives and deaths of all those who dedicated themselves to put me here – in this lonely place. A king can never be other than isolated; my most loyal councillors are there to help, but only one head can wear the crown. Knowing the tenure is finite is that which allows me to continue – patience you see, patience, that my time will come – and we will be reunited. That in itself is almost a fear more than I can bear; what if you’re not there? What if time has altered us both, too much to continue, nay, to start what might have been? It is folly to dwell on this. I cast my fea in dreams and sometimes catch a glimpse of you – whether it be real or wishful imagining, I can not tell. I only hope.
The Loyal Servant
My lord the King commanded his place be prepared for him; he feels his time is soon to come. To know the time of your own death must be chilling but he seems to fear it not. I would almost swear he welcomes those cold arms to close around him. A grisly thought, but true; he smiles a sad half-smile as he watches the drapes prepared for his bier. My Lady, the Queen weeps then and will not be consoled, who can blame her? They say that with his passing there will be none left for her. She has a son and daughters, but without him… her hold on this life will fade as pale as winter sunshine.
There have long been instructions left for a coronet of twigs and leaves from the White Tree to be placed at his head after the Winged Crown is taken for his son. A curious notion, but I suppose there’s some elvish significance – he would be crowned with the symbol of the realm; that is enough for me. My Lord Faramir had insisted that feathers were added to the crown, the King smiled and did not gainsay him. A glance passed between them that I could not read but it spoke of secret understandings. It was not my place to conjecture, but I saw My Lady bite her lip. Though it seemed to me fitting that one crown should give mimesis to the other – though the feathers chosen were black not white; that I do find strange. Another instruction we have is for the vambraces of the Steward’s late brother to be buckled in place. The King wears them often when alone, a favoured reminder of times past; they say before he came to the throne his lot was a more carefree one. I have watched him touch the leather as tenderly as it were a lover’s skin – they must evoke strong memories for him, though I’ve not heard him speak of soldier’s tales, well maybe to Lord Faramir, or maybe the Queen. No, perhaps not her, he slips them out of sight when she visits his rooms.
The King has passed this day. The women weep. My Lady, the Queen sits as if carved from marble; pale, deathly still as our fair Lord. I buckled each vambrace to his arms; they fitted easily as a second skin so smooth they are to the touch. At that my Lady did shed tears, and then she turned away. I have sat the Vigil with my Lord this night; the spring air is still warm, even at midnight. And as I watched it seemed the sky wept diamonds, falling stars that flashed brightly then were gone. They say star-candles greet the birth of great ones, surely reverence and glory can be expressed for the passing of those beloved as well?
It seemed to me that I lay down and fell into the sweetest sleep. A burden was lifted from my brow and I felt my freedom and release. I could smell the leaves of Imladris and my childhood, soft and green after being bruised by rain. I took a long breath and breathed my old life away. I thought I might be walking in Imladris, but the trees were too tall, too old. It came to me it might be Lorien, but it was Spring, and Spring there had passed many Ages before. I knew I had to continue walking even if I did not know the path, and indeed there was none. The ground was virgin, neither sign nor mark upon it that showed passing feet. There were shadows there, but I was not afraid, only somehow knowing that what I most desired could be found if I continued through the trees. Then, of a sudden, I could smell the sea, is that not strange?
How, I don’t quite remember, but I found myself in a small grey boat, with the stars dancing swift patterns above my head. Then I slipped again into a sweet sleep.
The gulls called me to the shore. The last of the night’s stars darted as bright diamonds at the dawn as I watched the water pearl, and the morning clouds turn from night to rose. On the horizon I thought I saw… did I dare believe? So far, so far – I could not watch its progress, could not bear for it not to be… But still - I put on the quilted shirt and surcoat of my rank. I dressed again so he would recognise me, not daring to hope, but unable to stop believing. I fetched my horse, and saddled another, walking them slowly back to the shore. If it was, I would ride with him through fields of shining gold as we never were able to before. I must show him … what? Another kingdom? And how long would we be allowed to linger before we passed? I didn’t know, but I shivered like a nervous colt. I took a brush and with unsure fingers curried the pony’s mane. I tried to put clumsy braids therein, not really worth the name, for I could not bear to watch the water. So absorbed was I in that imposed task, I started at the touch of the hand on my shoulder. I could not turn my head, but froze – if it were not, ‘twould break my heart. The grip tightened and even trembled. Then he murmured my name. I could not help myself – I threw my arms about his neck and hugged him.
As I climbed from the boat I could see him, his back to me, wearing the warrior’s garb we’d sent him off in. He attended the mane of a fine horse so studiously I was almost loathe to disturb him. Then I saw the tension in his back, the ache in his shoulders. He knew I was here. I reached out to ease that pain, and as I spoke his arms were about me. How long have I waited, hoped but never dared to dream of this moment. I will not be ashamed to say I wept.
“I waited,” he whispered softly, “Gentle soldier of my soul.” And a dark feather drifted down to land on his sleeve. I could do naught but smile. I had woken with him at my side.
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.