16. The Elysian Fields
The Elysian Fields
Rows upon rows of swaying blooms glimmered pale against the dark weft of the gloaming-shadows. Haldir stepped into the meadow as if entering a chamber where another sleeps. Each pace threatened to buckle him at the knees, and he worried he would not have the wherewithal to endure the walk homeward after he had discharged this final duty. Even he, who felt little compunction to abide by the strictures of martial panoply, felt more than a little unkempt with his collar askew and ash-stained, his hair tangled and smoky about his shoulders, his fingers bloodied and sore from hauling endless faggots of wood. Lórien's fallen were not laid to rest beneath the earth.
He was beginning to regret telling Rúmil and Orophin that he would come in his own time in his own fashion. After paying their respects, they had all dispersed with friends, lovers, wives or children: his brothers, their comrades and the men of the northern fences to whom he had given leave (and some to whom he had not), taking the comfort and solace that so many needed and so few received. It was bad form for a captain to lead from the rear—it suggested fear, and he did not fear this meadow. For what was there to fear? Emptiness? An unarmed company of flowers without even thorns to shield them from a stranger's idle, plucking hand?
Who could know that something so pale had sprung from battleplains so red? That their fragrance did not entirely dispel the stench of the marshes from his nostrils, and even then, still there lingered the smoke ever-rising from across the Anduin. Who could know that for every blossom, there was a face or, sometimes, a name he knew or had once known? Too many.
The dryness on his tongue recalled the wineskin in his hand. His former comrades did not protest that he had drunk his half before them but downed their share in the time-honored fashion of soldiers exhilarating in their first swallow of wine after crossing a desert. Mirkwood's rich vintage washed the earth and the heads of the alfirin with drops of darkest crimson.
Haldir eased himself roughly to his knees and reached for the leathern pouch at his belt. Its too-familiar weight chafed and unbalanced him even as it grew lighter. The earth was stiff and unyielding, and his nails and fingers were scored and blackened to the knuckles by the time he carved the niches. The seeds were hardy and once in bloom would not fade even outside the more indolent climes of Caras Galadhon. He covered them over quickly as if the smoothness of the ground where they lay might bring with it a concomitant lightening of responsibility from his overburdened shoulders and blunt the knife-edge of grief and guilt.
"Three more to lay their arms beside yours, lads." He glanced at the blood on one of his knuckles, bright in the gathering twilight. "Your duty is done."
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.