The house was small, yet solid, built of wood with the carved horse heads at the gable like all the others, even the great hall of Meduseld. Not that this house was anywhere near the Golden Hall - its inhabitants were common folk of no special rank among their people. A simple house, then, shaded by a couple of gnarled oak trees. Outside the front door stood a bench and on the bench sat two figures.
"I saw their king once," said one of them. "He came to the Houses of Healing to tend to some who had suffered from the Black Breath, as they call it. Our Lady Éowyn was one, and the Steward of Gondor. That was where they met. The other was one of the Periain."
"The Halflings from the North?"
"Yes, but he wasn't one of the two who went into the Black Land. He was hurt on the Pelennor Fields, just like me. I talked with him a few times. He was well-spoken and I liked him very much. They seem a courteous people, but then everybody in that place was gentle and mannerly."
He, who had spoken these words, averted his face to hide his eyes, which were brimming with tears.
"They were so kind to me, Mama. The Houses of Healings are wonderful indeed. I would have surely died, had they not taken care of me..."
His voice trailed off. With both hands he grasped the crutches and tried to rise from the bench. On the second attempt, he succeeded and stood, a tall young man with long hair the colour of wheat. The twittering, which had filled the air until now, suddenly stopped, as a flock of starlings took fright and plunged down the hillside, where the last few houses of Edoras looked out over the plain. The gentle green of spring covered the land, a soft, rolling sea that stretched all the way to the distant mountains.
Dirlayn, his mother, remained seated and leaned back against the wall of her house. It had rained earlier in the afternoon, and now the air was very still and the smell of living things, growing things, rose from the meadows into the quiet city. The sky looked pale and dull, like thin milk in a dark bowl. She glanced at her son and guessed what he did not say: That he had wished to die in those first few days. That after the battle, death had seemed like a sweet, sweet reward for those luckier than himself, and life a burden he cared not for. He would never ride again. What was there left to live for?
"There was one in particular," he began again. "One woman whose kindness I cannot praise enough."
"Was she young?"
"Oh, no." A faint smile appeared on his face. "She was much the same age as you. In fact, she was like a mother to me, though she said she had no children of her own and indeed no living kin. Merilwen was her name. She would sit by my side sometimes, and when I cried, she would tell me stories of the White City and of her childhood in the hills. And she always knew what I needed most, be it water, food or rest. Had it not been for her compassion, I think despair might have overwhelmed me. I would have dearly liked to give her a token of my gratitude. It grieved me that I had nothing to give her but words when we parted."
"I am pleased with you, Déoric," said his mother, "that you thought of courtesy and gratitude even in your anguish. Your father would be glad to know that his son didn't disgrace himself in foreign lands. As for Merilwen, it is not too late to give her a gift. There are messengers travelling back and forth between the Mark and Gondor now, so I hear. I shall put my needle to work, for I owe her a debt of gratitude, too. My son came home."
The young man shuddered, as if the memory of his ordeal had suddenly seized him afresh. Dirlayn sighed, rose from her seat and put her hand on his arm.
"Come inside," she said. "It is getting cold."
In the days that followed, Déoric spent much time walking about Edoras on his crutches, as if to prove to everybody that he was indeed alive and wouldn't hide himself away. While the trees unfurled their leaves, he stopped in the streets to talk to neighbours and visited old friends. One house, however, he never went near and he would make strenuous detours to avoid it.
When he came home one afternoon, his mother was waiting for him. Spread out on the table was the cloth he had seen her working on for the last two weeks without ever paying much attention to it. It was dark green, of the coarse, warm fabric the Rohirrim wove. Around the edges a border of white flowers shone in crisp embroidery, and more flowers were dotted all over the cloth.
"It is finished," said Dirlayn.
He stepped closer and ran his hand over the cloth.
"Simbelmynë," he said. "The flower of the mounds. But I am alive, and thanks to her." There was a trace of question in his voice.
"Indeed," replied Dirlayn. "Do you not know, Déoric, that the flowers that grow on the graves of our forefathers are a sign not just of death, but also of life continuing? The mounds are green and studded with flowers, not brown and barren like those places where the men burn the carcasses of fallen orcs."
"That is true," replied the young man. He looked at the cloth again. "It is beautiful. I think Merilwen will like it very much. Thank you, Mama."
He kissed her on the cheek. She looked away.
"You are a good lad," she said quietly and folded up the cloth. "I know a man who is riding to Gondor next week and is willing to take it. Sit down and I shall bring your supper."
Déoric dropped into his chair and leaned his crutches against the side of the table.
"Fana has been asking for you again," she called from the kitchen. He made no reply. When she brought him bread and butter and cheese, he busied himself about the food and pretended he hadn't heard.
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.