1. We Shall Remember Them
It is a beautiful day, all things considered.
Just me, my horse and miles and miles of unbroken plain…
I am in my element.
The weather has been kind from dawn to dusk, I have had a good ride and a well-behaved steed…
I am the luckiest woman in the world.
There were eyebrows raised at court, of course.
What did I ever do to warrant such special treatment, they mutter behind their hands, thinking I do not notice.
What secret, sordid service must I have performed to deserve such favour from the King?
I bite my tongue and I say nothing to them, though I long to name them for the pack of cowardly old crones they are.
I leave that particular pleasantry to my husband the Steward…
…who takes great delight in reminding them exactly how much the King- and by extension the kingdom, and by further extension still their pathetic little coven- owes me.
Riding across the fields I find myself thinking of him a pang of longing runs through my breast and a rueful smile across my lips.
Ours was merely a marriage of convenience, I told myself- a way of bringing our two peoples closer together against our common foes.
I could learn to tolerate him in time, I told myself, but I would never love him- never.
He did not know me, after all- he had not seen what I had seen.
My smile widens, and I feel like a giddy girl faced with her first crush.
It is precisely what he has not seen- and what I have not seen that he has in turn- that is so wonderful about him.
He teaches me about his city and I teach him about my fields.
I teach him about my horses and he teaches me about his forests.
I teach him about women and he teaches me about men…
…and every day brings something new and wonderful.
Even the Queen, the great Evenstar herself, has expressed a desire to know our secret…
…but I shall not tell.
Not yet, anyway.
The sun has almost reached the horizon, and I realise I have ridden almost the entire day. Looking back across the plain at the walls of theWhiteCity, I see them stained blood-red, reflected upon the plain like the setting sun itself…
And then I look again and my smile grows ever wider.
This is perfect.
I bring my horse to a stop and dismount, shrugging my pack from my back as I do so.
A flat stone makes a crude but serviceable altar- the two candles I brought with me stand easy upon it as I light them, and not even the slightest gust of wind disturbs their flames as I sit cross-legged before them, gazing out at the plain before me.
They wanted to build a great monument to the dead here, you know- a vast mausoleum to house the slain so that all might know what happened here.
But what good would that be, I argued loud and long.
The kingdom cannot afford such a thing, I cried- the dead are dead- they do not know whether they lie in palace or pigsty.
Those same courtly ladies who sniffed and snorted and raised their noses in the air when my marriage to the Steward was announced did so again at my words.
What did I know? I was just some country bumpkin from another kingdom, a slack-witted yokel who did not know a farthingale from a kirtle.
It was the King himself who reminded them of my deeds, of the debt he- and therefore they- owed me.
This is so much more appropriate a memorial.
In my mind, I imagine a mound raised here, over many years- a single stone placed each year, placed in memory of the countless lives lost upon these fields, in memory of the untold gallons of blood spilled.
Small it might be at first, but in time…
This is perfect.
I look at the city walls stained blood-red by the sunset, and the mighty Pelennor Field stained blood-red by the poppies that have sprung up their since the battle, and I know that this is perfect.
My unborn child- also as yet secret and silent- kicks once, twice, thrice…
Almost as if in agreement.
Yes, the dead are gone, but we are still here.
And at the going down of the Sun we shall remember them.