1. Preparing The Way
His time draws near.
Three days have passed. Yet it is only now that I understand he will leave me.
I feel the weight of time as never before.
This morning, he raised his head to drink some water from my cupped hand, but would take nothing more. His breath comes slowly now, deep and hollow in his chest.
"There have been many meetings since the day I departed for Rivendell," I whisper, stroking his proud neck, "but you were the first," I pause to swallow past the lump that rises in my throat, "to truly capture my heart."
There have been few partings yet. None so permanent as this one will be. Still, I do not know how to say good-bye. Not in a millennia have I learned it. Nor do I ever think I shall. Certainly, there is more chance now that I have befriended all manner of mortals: dwarves and hobbits and humans alike. Yet the first mortals I ever knew were horses. But none before matched him.
His barrel shudders underneath another ragged breath. It is time indeed. I feel it in my breast, though I try to shake the bitter sting of tears from behind my eyes and plead, 'not yet'! My heart knows that I must let him go. This parting, so small to some of my kind, feels to rend me with a grief deeper than I have ever known. It frightens me to know there will be more sunderings to come. And I hope I may master the art of saying farewell before I am confronted with the next.
I comb the silky mane with my fingers. He heaves a sigh, and raises his head to brush his velvet muzzle against my cheek. I have pillowed him as best I can with straw. There is little else possible with him lying on his side, his back pressed tightly against the wall of the enclosure, yet his head still comes to rest heavily on my knees. How the courtiers would frown to see me near the deathbed of a horse, mired in muck and caring naught for any of it save what comfort I might bring to this trusted friend.
It is Elboron's voice. I turn to look and realize there is someone else here also, blurred through the veil of my tears. I blink and see yet another figure beyond them both. So, it comes to this. The boy must have sent for them. Out of worry, I suspect. For it is not like me to spend my days and nights in the barn, mourning the passing of a horse. But this is not any horse.
It is Arod.
Arod, who bore Gimli and I through battle and darkness. Arod, who bore us in victory to the White City. Arod, who broke free from his paddock at Edoras and stationed himself as sentry outside my tent, when I would have returned him to his home and land. A smile tugs at my lips with the memory. No truer friend could I have asked for these last swift years.
I press my forehead to his. "You must go," I mean to sound stern, even commanding, but my voice reflects the pain within. I am loathe to watch him linger only because I wish it. The words clutch at my heart. Go where? What awaits a noble steed beyond the circles of the world?
I do not know.
A gentle touch stills me, prevents me from rising, as I should in the presence of my king.
"Dartho, mellon nín." Aragorn's voice is soft. Elessar, I remind myself. I turn away from the sound: such tender care makes the prickling in my heart sting deeper. He kneels beside me, takes my hand in one of his, the other he lays gently on Arod's neck.
"Gwador." I know not who Elessar names 'brother': Arod or I. It matters naught. Brother he has named us all in one fashion or another.
"I --" my voice breaks. My eyes well up again. I curl my hands into fists, but I can not make the wave of sorrow ebb away.
"I have come to give him a draught to ease his rest." Our eyes meet.
I nod. My lips are numb. A soundless "hannon le," escapes them.
Another touch on my shoulder.
"Would that there was a measure for your pain, my friend." Faramir's voice is kind and worried. "I am sorry."
Again, I nod. I do not trust myself to speak. I fear the wracking sobs that may devour me or the flood that once loosed, I might drown in. Elboron draws near. He is too old now to offer the longed for comfort of those once chubby arms around me, yet I feel him stealing to my side, his head brought to rest gently on my shoulder. I smooth his hair, an automatic gesture leftover from his childhood, and feel the wetness on his cheek.
Elessar administers the elixir. The air is heavy with mourning. He is as much a part of our company as any of us! I rail inwardly at the unfairness of mortal life, and even more so the brief flame of one that gives love and loyalty without conditions. Yet, even in my grief, am I not surrounded by these same stout hearts?
We wait in silence.
His breathing calms. The deep brown equine eyes grow heavy.
And I, looking on, know I will always remember.
"Dartho, mellon nín." = Stay, my friend.
Hannon le = Thank you.
Namárië = Farewell
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.