Written in answer to a challenge set for Memorial Day on the Henneth Annûn mailing list: Write one character's remembrance of war. This could be a eulogy, a lament, a memory, a visit to someone's grave - anything that serves as a meditation on what war means. The catch is: it cannot be more than 500 words long.
A quiet ceremony, he reflects when it is over. The passing of time does not bring distance, but seems to bring acceptance. The pale spring sun falls upon his face; he feels the warmth and the life in his veins. He feels at peace.
The young man to his right – his heir – sighs deeply. “I’m glad that’s over for another year...”
“How can you say such a thing?” Éowyn scolds. “When we are remembering our dead? And remembering that day, that terrible day, when all that we have now was nearly lost—”
“We know, mother. The city was under siege—”
“The gate broken—” their daughter adds.
“The horns blew wildly in the mountain’s sides—”
“‘Begone, foul dwimmerlaik!’” she waves her hand as if wielding a sword.
“The black ships came to the Harlond—”
“Red fell the dew in Rammas Echor!” the girl finishes triumphantly, and brother and sister laugh at each other. Hearing them he almost smiles himself, but then he looks at Éowyn.
A single tear is rolling down her cheek. He reaches out and takes it away. Their eyes meet.
How could they understand? he asks her. How must it be to look east and feel no dread, to see a king who is not withering, to have only ever known the city in bloom? War forged us, darkness took us, hope saved us. Why should they understand?
“There is something that I do not understand.” The slow, thoughtful voice of their younger son. “Each year, we go to this place, and the buildings... one is newer than the rest – for the Princes, yes – but what happened to the old one?”
Sometimes, when he is not listening, he thinks he hears a whisper which melts too quickly into the air, before he can say if it is memory or desire.
I will not let them have you... I will not surrender you...He looks at his own children – his daughter, his two sons – feels that desire to defend them so fiercely the violence of it shocks him—
It passes; becomes – he hopes – understanding.
“There was a fire,” he begins, then levels his voice. “There was a fire...
Altariel, 25th May 2003