1. A Guidance in the Unknowable Dark
On each side of her were lanes of lit candles that stretched the length of the long hall. They flickered like golden stars amidst a dark night. She knew not how she had come here, only that moments before she was a frail old woman who had trouble breathing. But now she was young once more, and breathing was easier again. Her hair was once again long and gold, and her face smooth.
Éowyn had heard many tales of what lay beyond for the dead, though it was peculiar now to think she had passed the veil of life, for she had felt nothing: no pain, no fear, no sense of change. She must have been dreaming. She was sure of it because she clearly remembered closing her eyes to sleep for the night. She must be simply dreaming.
But since when had her dreams been so vivid? Not even when she was a small child could she dream of walking in a world with the thick scent of lavender and lilac. The lights on the candles flickered high into the ceiling, yet no matter how high the flames danced to the ceiling, nothing - not even the swaying tapestries hanging against the stone walls - caught on fire.
She had always imagined death to hurt. Even in the days long ago when she desired death, she imagined it to be painful, and the in days when she dreaded dying, she imagined it terrifying.
But it was neither painful nor terrifying. If she could describe death as anything, it would be a disappointment. And more confusing than life.
A rare smile came to her then at her little private joke. She strolled down the hall slowly, paying attention to every detail. There was still a part of her that expected herself to wake at any moment, back to her old body in her room, her straggly hair white and grey. Or perhaps her dream would twist into a nightmare, that perhaps the mirrors would show her terrifying beasts lurking behind her. But in each mirror the lady who looked back was the same, was simply her: young and fair.
She found the source of the lilacs and bent to smell the curious flowers.
"Do you find the flowers to your liking, my lady?"
Éowyn looked up to see a handsome tall elf with long silverly hair. His heavy-lidded eyes shone with kindness, and in his smile was wisdom.
"I've met you before," Éowyn said, forgetting her manners. It had been many years ago, and at the time she never saw the elf's soft grey eyes. "You died in the battle of Helm's Deep. I washed your body before my people buried you along with the other fallen warriors."
The elf bowed slowly. "Yes, that you did. I am Haldir, and you are in the Hall of Mandos."
Éowyn stood up. "But only elves ever come here! I truly must be dreaming!"
Haldir chuckled. "Everyone comes to the Hall of Mandos, though the free people of Middle-earth may be separate from one another by their race. I saw you leave your body not more than an hour ago, and I begged Mandos to bring you here so I can speak with you, at least this one time before we are to part for ever."
He lowered his head, regarding her with a shyness that she had not expected from an elf so proud and noble. Éowyn smiled inwardly, endeared by the gentleness so contrary to his proud warrior appearance.
"I will gladly speak with you, but I must ask why it was so urgent you needed to meet me."
He led her down the hall. "I wanted to see you to offer you my greatest gratitude."
"Your kindness. My soul did not leave my body the moment it had ceased all function. I was trapped inside, slowly passing into the Halls."
Éowyn felt a shiver run down her spine, and she was momentarily distracted by her reaction, for the sensation was more vivid than anything she's ever felt while she was alive. "My death was far kinder," she said. "I only recall closing my eyes for the night's rest, and the next thing I knew I was in here. Do all elves suffer as such?"
"Only those dying of poisoned wounds," Haldir replied. "My death was agonizing, unbearable. For a while I was trapped in the two worlds, for I could still feel every touch but could not respond. I could see my body, but I no longer had control over it."
They paused momentarily, watching a tapestry sway wildly in the hall in silence before Haldir motioned her to continue walking. She could now see two pairs of double doors at the end of the hall: one silver and one golden. "I saw you wash my body before the men of Helm's Deep eventually buried me. I was still in pain, but the song you sang while you washed me healed my soul enough to finally leave my body completely."
Éowyn's smile had gone and was now replaced with a small look of horror. "You're saying that I finally killed you?"
Haldir laughed. "You healed me. The rest of my journey to the Halls was nothing short of comfort. When normally these Halls are full of the cries of slain elves, even then I remained content. Years passed in Middle-earth and I remained in the Halls waiting for when Mandos would call me to meet him, and always my thoughts were on you and your gentle words. Throughout your life I watched over you. I blessed you and Faramir on your wedding day, and I blessed each of your children on the moment of their birth and every year thereafter."
"This is a very endearing thing to know, Haldir," Éowyn said. "I am glad I was able to provide comfort to another even when I myself was in pain."
She stopped and turned to look at him, her eyes shining. Haldir seemed lost as they gazed into each other's eyes for a moment. "Éowyn, there is something I wish to give to you."
In her hand he placed a small object soft to the touch. Golden was its color, and it was craved into the shape of a rose, elegantly crafted with rows of golden petals overlapping one another. In the center a small branch of silver thread stuck out.
Éowyn admired the object for a few moments, noting the similarity between this rose and the candles of the Hall, before turning to the handsome elf. "Did you make this?"
Haldir gave a slight bow. "Yes. I made this rose out of the candle-wax from these very Halls," Haldir explained. "Neither wick nor wax will ever melt. I wish for you to take this gift from the Halls to where your afterlife leads you." He moved his hand over the candle and it instantly lit. Though a small flame now flickered, the rose continued to feel cool in her hand. "No one knows what happens to Men who have passed in this life. We do not know if you will find rest or if you will be faced with evil. The light from this candle will be a guidance in the unknowable dark. It will never fade away. Not even the strongest wind can ever blow out the light from this candle."
"This is most admirable," Éowyn said sincerely. "To carry this candle with me once I enter the unknown - I will never forget you." She chuckled. "Faramir will have a lot of questions for me when he joins me."
"And what will you tell him?"
"That an elf I comforted many years ago wished to offer me a comfort in return."
Haldir got one knee, took her hand, and kissed her, his soft lips brushing against the back of her hand. He still appeared too shy to show such affection in one who was already wed to another. Smiling, Éowyn crouched down, and taking Haldir's face in one hand - the same hand he kissed - she kissed him back on the cheek.
Haldir blinked and looked up into her eyes in surprise. Éowyn smiled. "Think of it as a kiss from one friend to another."
Haldir chuckled and stood up. "It's time for you to enter the doors to your Halls. I've kept you here too long. Mandos is calling me to him."
Éowyn glanced back at the silver doors. "My heart flutters in fear of what is to next to come, but we must both go through our doors for we are not meant to remain here nor on Middle-earth forever. I will use my candle to remind me of your warmth and kindness and love. It will get me through. Whether I see you or Faramir ever again I shall not know, but I at least have one thing to take with me." She reached for her hair and tugged out a few strands. "I have no skill in making such delicate crafts as this rose, but I can offer you a few of my hairs to remember me if ever you suffer sadness."
"You are the kindest woman I have ever met," Haldir said. "I will take your hair with me, and if anyone asks from where it came, I will tell them that the fairest lady on Middle-earth had given them to me." Both the golden and the silver doors flung open, and both Haldir and Éowyn turned to look at them once more, anxiety briefly showing on their faces. "Now go. Let us not waste any more time. Farewell Éowyn! My heart will remain with you always."
They said their final farewells and walked to their respective doors. Without another glance at one another they entered, swallowed by the dark. The doors swung shut, and echos filled the empty candlelit hall.
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.