For Marta on her birthday: a series of eight drabbles.
Aragorn first noted the young warrior among the group of Easterlings attacking from a position to the east of the slag hill on which his troupes stood. He was taller then many of his fellows, and his hair was far lighter than was true of most of the Rhűnim, as was true also of his mustache. He was determined, though; that Aragorn had to admit as he saw three of his kinsmen and two Rohirrim turn to face this newest threat.
He put the young warrior from his mind--a great troll and two orcs were advancing on him, after all.
The young warrior woke, apparently inside an enclosure of some sort. Someone was carefully wiping his forehead with a damp cloth. “So,” a voice said in his own tongue, “you come back to us, do you? Do you think that you could swallow some water, and then perhaps some broth?”
He could see nothing--suddenly frightened, he put his hand to his face and found bandages wrapped about his eyes.
“Soft now, my son,” the voice advised him. “You lost an eye in the battle, and we seek only to preserve the sight in the other. It will soon be uncovered.”
He was settled on a bench while the healer worked at unfastening the bandages about his head. “We are in a rather dark tent,” he was advised. “We will soon know whether the right eye has followed the left.”
The last of the cloth strips fell away, and gently a pad was removed from the left, and finally from the right. He first realized there was a glimmer of light behind him, and the shapes before him resolved in time into the faces of two Men--but they were not Rhűnim!
“By the Dark Lord,” he whispered. “I’ve been taken prisoner!”
“They have been very kind to us,” whispered the one who lay in the next bed, whose lung had been pierced and yet looked to recover. “We are treated with courtesy and gentleness--and respect. Lord Abdurin ordered us all killed, since we were sore wounded; but the folk of the Stonelands would not do so. Indeed their new captain insisted instead we be given all aid possible, and he labors himself amongst the healers. Imagine--a warrior who yet is a healer himself. He has spent much time over you, easing your thrashing when you were yet out of your body.”
“What would you do?” asked Gondor’s new captain, whose name was yet unknown. “Have you family at home? A wife? Children?”
He shook his head. “No--no wife, no children. None would accept me into their clan, for my father was a slave, one of the Horse-folk west of you.”
“You fought well.”
“But I am the son of a slave, and am now half blind.”
“You have lost the use of one eye, but have use of the other. You could still do much for your people.”
He shook his head bitterly. This one knew little of his people, apparently.
He stood at the entrance to their camp; the new King was to come among them, set each on his way. He watched the tall Man moving amidst his guards, and recognized the healer captain in him. His mouth fell open.
Some of his fellows yet chose to return to Rhűn. Others chose to accept service to families or on farms within Gondor.
“I still have no thoughts as to what I could do with my life, great Lord,” he said.
The King’s small companion stepped forward. “I know an artisan within the Fourth Circle who would welcome an apprentice.”
It was difficult work and exacting, learning to blow glass. But there was a delightful satisfaction in seeing the sand melt, then to see the glowing blob taking shape from the breath of the glassblower, to see colors emerge, swirling in a dizzying manner.
“Master Frodo did well to send you to me,” Master Celebrion told him with satisfaction. “You have a good eye and a ready imagination, and are willing to do all you are set to do. I am well pleased.”
Arafim smiled. Trading sword for bellows and metal straw and molten glass had given him great satisfaction.
He entered Rhűn in a caravan sent out from Minas Tirith, and was surprised at how comfortable he felt, how reassuring he found the seeing the robed figures he’d ever thought his own--until he’d learned one had ordered his death. They were welcomed and given much honor, and at the first market he set out his wares.
A woman lifted up a fine ewer he’d crafted, looking with delight at the colors that swirled through it. “How lovely!” she said in her own tongue to the boy who’d come with her. “How much?” she asked in accented Westron.
“For you? ...”