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No Man's Child
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Prologue

A great doom awaits you, either to rise above the heights of all your fathers since the days of Elendil, or to fall into darkness with all that is left of your kin. Many years of trial lie before you… You shall be betrothed to no man's child as yet.
LOTR: Appendix A


~~~

Some time ago, the chanting ceased, leaving only the chill wind whistling through the grass. Here among the barrows, the morning is bright. The sun rises above a hill scoured clean by the bitter winds that sweep down from the northern lands. Snow lies secreted beneath the eaves of the tall pines, revealed only when our passage turned aside low-hanging boughs heavy with green. Yet, even now the tips of the hawthorn swell with the promise of new growth. Soon the wind will turn and blow warmly from beyond the Havens, bringing with it the water of distant seas and the blessings of the Valar.

Dirt trickles from my fist and my fingers ache from the force with which I clasp the earth between them.

"Nienelen?"

A touch to my elbow turns me and I blink in the light at a face framed in silver-threaded hair. I stare at her.

I know her. Like me, she is a woman of the Dúnedain of the North. I have known her all my life. I know each tale told by the worn lines of her face and those of the women who stand in ranks beyond her. Today, I have become one of them. In the end, what tale will my features tell? How many men will I grieve? Is it my destiny, as it is theirs, to live the last of our lives alone, bereft of father, brother, husband, son, until we too lay down our weary bones beside them?

The wind sighs through the sere grass and burns my cheeks with its chill. I wept and did not know it.

Mutely, I look down upon my father's face against the dark, newly-turned earth. Yet still, I cannot see him. Those are not his beloved eyes, cheeks and jaw. 'Tis not his hair arrayed about his shoulders. I see not his smile when he taught me the weaving of the buttercup of this very meadow, nor the laughter when, in jest, his child placed them upon his dark head. I may keep his house and make of his days upon the Angle a comfort, but I see naught of likeness to the man I know.

"Daughter," says the woman gently, placing a hand upon my arm to urge the ritual on. Yet, she is not my mother. She that gave me birth died in the labor.

I am not her daughter, for I have no mother, nor, now, any father. For, from this day on, I am no man's child.

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