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37
In This Far Land Beneath the Trees

The company had been sitting for an hour or so talking and laughing, the Hobbits with their pipes, when a guard in black and silver approached and made a neat bow. "Your pardon, my lords, my lady; the King requests the presence of the Lady Rowanna and Master Meriadoc, at your convenience."

"That's good," urged Pippin, "at least it means Aragorn will take a rest for a while from dispatches and petitions and I don't know what. We've barely seen him since Sam and Frodo awoke! Give him our best - ask him whether he'll come to supper with us tonight..."

Chuckling, Merry and Rowanna followed the guard across the grove to the tent which flew the Crown and Stars. Slipping inside at his gesture, they waited to be announced; for Aragorn, seated on a sawn-off treetrunk at a large wooden table, was deep in conversation with Prince Imrahil who stood at his shoulder. Spread before them on the table was a map, which Aragorn was periodically jabbing with his quill as they talked; his fingertips were inky and as he distractedly pushed the dishevelled black locks back from his face, Rowanna realised why his brow was equally ink-stained. The table was a chaos of papers; off to one side, at a smaller desk, sat a harassed-looking young man with his own inkwell, quill and stack of parchments, in his case neatly aligned. At Aragorn's other elbow was another, smaller table bearing a wine-flask, a couple of beakers and a long-stemmed pipe.

"...don't know yet is how Harad will respond, and we're in no position at this point to send ambassadors. Did we get any answer back from Faramir about Denethor's agents?"

"Not yet, but there I may be able to assist; my armsmaster..." Since the guard was clearly of no mind to interrupt such strategic discussion, Rowanna let her eyes wander. The King's spartan quarters took little time to examine. A curtain cut off an alcove behind Aragorn which she assumed to be his bedroom; other than the tables and their improvised wooden seats, the rough canvas which covered the floor, and a great black-and-silver standard which stood carefully propped against one of the poles - I recognise that! Rowanna realised with a jolt. That's what Arwen was stitching all those months ago in Rivendell! - the tent was empty. Eventually Aragorn passed a scribbled set of notes to the young man at the other desk, who spread out his own parchment and set to work with care; then the King sighed, stretched, and at last looked up.

"Merry - Rowanna! Your pardon!" He twisted in his seat. "Does that give you enough to make progress, Imrahil?"

"Undoubtedly, my liege. I shall let you know if I hear anything further from my nephew." With a brief acknowledgement to Aragorn, and a courteous nod to the waiting pair, the Prince of Dol Amroth gathered his dispatches and withdrew, followed a moment later, at a murmur from his lord, by the scribe.

I don't know how to behave! Rowanna realised, with a momentary flash of panic. Do we kneel? Bow? - I can hardly curtsey in breeches! Fortunately, as she and Merry began to step forward Aragorn was already unfolding his long legs from beneath the table.

"Chieftain - Sire.."

"Chieftain I might grant you," came the wry response, "but King I am not, officially, yet - and in any case this is, I am glad to say, decidedly a private audience. Merry, Rowanna - how are you? It is good to see you!" And the uncrowned King Elessar of Arnor and Gondor strode across his tent and enfolded them both in a bearhug. "Fares the Lady Mķranna well? Merry, how is that arm? And can either of you shed any light on the rumours that my Steward is taking a particularly, shall we say, personal interest in the healing and recovery of the White Lady of Rohan?.."

He motioned them each to a seat on one of the tree-trunks, and reached for his pipe. "Cousin - you will pardon Merry and me if we smoke? Imrahil is too correct to say so to his liege lord but I know he dislikes it, so I have been refraining, and it has been a long day..."

They were still taking it in turns to inform Aragorn on the more domestic details of Minas Tirith life which, as he ruefully said, none of his conscientious dispatches from Faramir or Hśrin contained, when a rustle behind them announced the entry of a somewhat portly official in a blue sash. "The camp quartermaster," Aragorn explained. "What is it, Glavradīr?"

"Your pardon, my liege, but as they are here with you I thought it opportune to inform the Lady Rowanna and Master Meriadoc of their billets," the quartermaster explained. "Master Meriadoc can be easily enough accommodated with Master Peregrin and the Ringbearers, as I gather is their wish -"

"I imagine it is, though Mithrandir will have something to say if he feels that the resulting excitement is hindering the recovery of his charges!" Aragorn observed. "And?.."

"And it has, of course, been necessary to find space for the lady in the women's quarters on the northeast side," Glavradīr went on. "If her ladyship wishes to be escorted thither later I will gladly find -"

"Women's quarters?" Rowanna broke in, startled. "You mean - when Merry and I have travelled all the way from Minas Tirith for the sole purpose of being reunited with our friends, you would pitch me a tent on the other side of the encampment?.." She turned in consternation to Aragorn who, out of view of the quartermaster, permitted himself a barely-detectable roll of the eyes.

"Master Glavradīr has, I fear, been given strict instructions with regards to decorum," the King explained solemnly. "Entirely for reasons of military discipline, of course - after all, we are still officially on campaign. Forgive me the inconvenience, cousin, but if you do not object -"

Rowanna sighed. Clearly I cannot object without being thought at best wildly eccentric, and at worst a harlot!  "It seems less than necessary to trek all the way across the encampment daily merely for the purpose of sleeping, Sire, but I shall if nothing else get plenty of exercise. Perhaps I should have brought Gelion up here after all!"

***

"It does seem foolish," Pippin grumbled a little later when Rowanna and Merry had rejoined him. Gimli had declared his intention of walking over to the forge; Sam and Frodo were sleeping, and so the four remaining had moved a little further from the daybeds and sat against the trunk of a red-blossomed tree, the westering sunlight warm on their faces. "After all, we sent for you and Merry to come all the way out here because we didn't want to wait weeks to see you, and now some sour-faced Man says you have to trek every night across to the far side of the encampment - just because of what some Big People who don't know any of us think is proper?.."

"I don't suppose Aragorn would want to change the rules just for Rowanna, though, that wouldn't seem fair," Merry pointed out. "If the captains say the womenfolk must be billeted apart, to keep good order -"

"The commanders did have to decide last week what to do about it," Pippin admitted. "Beregond told me - some of the wives were sending from Minas Tirith wanting to know if they could come out to their menfolk. But the company captains said no, they'd have sweethearts and doxies all over the place swearing they were married women, and the captains would start having to rule on whether they were really their troops' wives or not, and it would start ill feeling and bad order and I don't know what. I suppose they were right. So they decided the other way around - married and family men could apply to their commander for leave to return to Minas Tirith, and if they were no longer needed for any of the expeditions into Mordor or Ithilien then they'd be let go. Beregond thought about going, but he wasn't really fit for a long wagon-ride, and besides he said Bergil would be most indignant that his father thought he needed nursemaiding!"

"That's almost certainly true," Rowanna put in with a chuckle. "If anything, he has been enjoying taking care of Mother for me!"

"So the only women in camp are among the Healers, or the cooks, or have some other job to do," Pippin explained. "And have been given their own quarters. But I still think it's ridiculous to make Rowanna walk all that way every day just to go and sleep somewhere else - don't you?" He looked enquiringly round the circle.

"Among my people," offered Legolas, "honour resides in our actions, not in whether or not we attract the gossip of others' tongues - and it would be what lay in your soldiers' and their women's hearts, not rites or ceremonies, that would determine whether they were wed. But I have seen enough of mortals to know that their customs are altogether strange to me!..."

"As strange as the Elves' would be to them," Rowanna laughed. "Ah well - I shall not lack for opportunities to stretch my legs for the next few days, at any rate! Aragorn promised that Prince Imrahil would get word to me when he has answered the dispatches from Dol Amroth, so I'll know when I must start back for Minas Tirith. My worry now is - must I needs have an occupation to prevent Glavradīr banishing me from the encampment altogether? I am no healer and I feel no great desire to volunteer as a laundry-maid!"

"I'm not sure they have any," Merry retorted, "don't you remember seeing those soldiers washing their own linen in the stream as we came by earlier?"

"Beregond says that's how you tell the difference between the seasoned troops and the raw recruits, here in camp," added Pippin. "The old campaigners are all well used to looking after themselves, and can cook and wash and keep their own gear spotless. When you see a captain haranguing a man for a stained shirt, you can be sure he's never had to wash it himself before - no wonder some of the Men were so keen to get their wives out here on the next wagon if they could!"

"Talking of cooking," his cousin broke through the general laughter, "the sun is nearly down. What does one do in this place about dinner?.."

***

The long, golden days unrolled lazily on the Field of Cormallen. Aside from the basic activities needed to keep the camp in good order, and the minimum of drill required to keep the men active and their weapons readied, the captains demanded little of the troops other than rest. Not all were yet returned; the detachments sent against the remnants of the Easterling and Southron troops had needed some days to subdue them, and when Rowanna asked after Elladan and Elrohir she discovered that they had insisted on leading the expedition into Mordor itself to storm Sauron's northern fortresses. Of course - I can't see them resting while a single orc remains alive!

"So did you find out what the trees are called, Sam?" Rowanna enquired as she steadily stroked the blade of her knife along her whetstone. "The ones with the scarlet blossom, I mean?" They were sitting companionably in the shade of the beeches at the edge of the grove, the distant music of the falls of Henneth Annūn in their ears; Sam had an eye to the stewpot hanging above his neatly-assembled cooking fire, where chunks of the fish Rowanna had caught and gutted were simmering.

"Culumalda, one of Captain Faramir's rangers told me," the Hobbit responded, giving the fish stew a stir. "Field of Cormallen's named for 'em, seemingly. He says later in the year they have tiny berries red as rubies; makes a lovely juice, good for the blood, so his sister who's a Healer would have it. Wouldn't know about that, but they're lovely, en't they?"

"That they are, Sam." Legolas' voice drifted down from the beech-canopy. "I fear they are too much lovers of southern heat to flourish back in your Shire, though; any hint of frost I think would finish them..."

"And how long have you been up there, may I ask?" Rowanna laughed, testing the blade of her knife cautiously with her thumb and returning it to its sheath at her belt. "I thought you were with Aragorn?"

"So I was, till he had business with Éomer," the Elf replied as he dropped lightly from the branch to sit with his back to the trunk, "and until the savour of that pot drifted over on the breeze! Where did you find the celonuil?" As they looked blank, he picked up a cluster of leaves from the small pile waiting on Sam's bit of sacking and looked at it speculatively.

"Hey!" the Hobbit protested. "'Don't you go pinching my garnish, Master Elf! Watercress, it's rightly called, and you can go and find your own! It's growing wild a little further up the stream there where it broadens out at the turn. My Aunty May used to grow it in beds along o' the Bywater Pool back home." He looked wistful for a moment. "Lovely peppery flavour it has too, just right to liven up a stew like this. I picked a tidy bit while Mistress Rowanna was tickling the trout out of the pool."

"We thought we'd try to tempt Frodo's appetite a little more," Rowanna explained, leaning back contentedly against Legolas. "Sam thinks he's still too thin -"

"So he is, for a self-respectin' Hobbit," Sam grumbled. "and very fond of watercress Master Frodo always was, too, back in the day. So don't you go scoffing of it all!"

"Forgive me, Sam, I did not mean to tease." The Elf looked grave. "I know you worry yet for Frodo. And if the smell of that stew does not tempt him to eat, then nothing will!"

***

"If I sit here any longer I'm going to fall asleep," Rowanna murmured a little later. "Sam, that was delicious - leave the pot, I'll clean it for you later. But for now, I'm going for a walk; anyone else?.."

"The only way to round off a meal like that," said Merry contentedly, "is with a pipe in the sun. Frodo? Gimli?"

"Gladly," rumbled the Dwarf, reaching into his jerkin. "Have you any Longbottom Leaf left?.."

"That settles it," retorted the Elf, rising to his feet and reaching out a hand to Rowanna. "A walk it is." They wandered away across the greensward, leaving Gimli and the Hobbits to converse, smoke and eventually doze.

"To the river?" Legolas enquired as they passed beneath the arch of culumalda and into the main encampment. Overhead, a pair of buzzards circled lazily in the warm updraughts.

"I thought I might go across to the horses," Rowanna offered. "One of the Eorlingas I crossed paths with on my way up this morning said that some of the beasts, Riders' and Swan Knights', are in a bad way yet; hildegefetorde... She frowned. "I don't know how you'd say it in the Grey Tongue. In the Common - War-fettered?.."

He nodded. "I have seen it. The physical wounds are healing; your countrymen know their business, and the knights of Dol Amroth also. But what their mounts endured before the Gate that day... to lift that darkness takes more than common skill."

"I...know." Rowanna spoke very quietly, and through their joined hands he felt her shiver. He checked his stride and drew her close, out of the trackway between the lines of tents.

"Do you wish to? - Are you sure?..." She nodded, her chin coming up.

"Perhaps I can help. And if not... Legolas, this is what I do, have done half my life. If I cannot any longer stand before a nervy horse and calm her, if I can't put away my own fear...then I need to know." He nodded, squeezing her hand. They went on, skirting the edge of the camp, to the area close to the trees where paddocks had been marked out with rope and wooden fencing. Legolas frowned.

"I still find it strange to see them thus enclosed."

"So is it strange to the Riders, in the normal course of things," Rowanna insisted. "But at home the éoreds run their beasts in herds, each with their head mare and their stallion; here after the battle they must be all mingled, and the Swan Knights' warhorses too, and then those that are injured... I can understand why they need the fences." And indeed, as they approached they saw that the roan mare nearest them was in a large pen apart, with a mule grazing peacefully in one corner. "She can see the others, and smell them, but she can't get to them," Rowanna pointed out.

"I've watched her a good deal these last few days," Legolas said softly, as they drew to a halt a little way away in the shadow of the trees. "See her flank, there?" He tilted his head, and Rowanna winced as she followed his gaze. Long, livid scars ran in parallel across the mare's flesh.

"Are those -" He nodded.

"Nazgūl. Just before the Eagles descended; I saw the poor beast. She threw her Rider, managed somehow not to tread on him, and took off halfway across the Dagorlad. They must have caught her later. They can't pen her with others, she's a bundle of nerves - though the mule keeps her company, and takes no notice of her jinks. See - here the Rider comes..."

He was little more than a boy, for all he had the Eorling height and bulk. Moving cautiously, singing softly to his mare as he came, he slid in through the pen's gate and stood a while leaning against the fence, apparently looking across to the other horses. Eventually, always side on to the mare, he took a few steps closer to her, then more, holding a hand out low towards her; but she only shifted uneasily and huffed. The Rider bit his lip.

"Poor lad," Rowanna whispered into Legolas' ear. "He does everything right, and yet -"

"She nearly came to him, yesterday," the Elf murmured. "Day after day he's been thus patient with her. He is almost there..."

As they watched, the mare's flattened ears came forward just a little. They heard her nicker.

"Go on," breathed Rowanna. "Good girl..."

And then, high above them, one of the buzzards let out a long, grating scream. The mare threw her head up in terror: her eyes rolled white and she snorted violently. Trying to scramble backwards she came up against the fencing, panicked and reared. Caught unawares, the Rider tried to move in to her shoulder, but misjudged it; as the mare came down he caught a blow in the chest from a flailing hoof that sent him reeling back, winded, into the fence.

Legolas leapt for the gate; but it was Rowanna who got through it first. Wait! Legolas almost cried in his stab of alarm, watching her step sideways in towards the mare; and then bit off the cry, and ran instead to steady the stunned Eorling and sit him gently down out of range, forcing himself to stand still and watch.

Rowanna was still some yards from the mare, waiting, watchful. Head tilted a little on one side, she said something softly in, Legolas assumed, Rohirric: paused; spoke again. The horse was no longer rearing or backing up, but she was still shifting from foot to foot, and the Elf could see her trembling. I could - He breathed out slowly, forcing himself to stillness.

Rowanna went on crooning. For a long moment, nothing seemed to change. Then Legolas felt the shift; the mare's ears slowly relaxed, then came forward a little. She huffed a breath which was almost a question. Rowanna spoke again, and made a gesture which the watching Elf and Rohir could only half see. The mare took a step forwards, then another. Legolas felt the boy beside him tense. Rohiril, remember - Then Rowanna made a tiny jerk of her head, unnoticed he thought by the Rider; the roan changed direction and stepped cautiously, delicately, across the paddock towards them. As the Rohir scrambled to his feet, she came to him and nuzzled into his outstretched hand; then she lifted her head and the pair of them, nose to nose, exchanged a breath as gentle as a kiss. Behind him, Rowanna sent Legolas a delighted smile which made his heart dance.

When the Rider turned back to Rowanna, eyes suspiciously bright, colour burned in his cheeks; the question he aimed at her, though the Elf understood it not, sounded like a challenge. Whatever the mortal woman said, though, must have calmed him. They spoke a few words more and he turned his attention back to his mount. Only then, as Rowanna came back to him at the gate, did Legolas notice that she was trembling almost as much as the mare had been. Swiftly, he folded her in his arms and held her tightly. "Mae agorech, melethen. Mae agorech..."

As they slipped out of the pen Riders began to surround them talking excitedly; there was much gesturing towards the mare, and he thought he caught Rowanna's name. Of course, Elladan said she and the Man she worked with were well known - "She needs rest now," he said firmly, hoping that enough of them understood Westron. "Let be, my friends." Keeping his arm around Rowanna's shoulders he nodded to the Rohirrim, who stared curiously as they stepped aside to give the pair passage, and he steered her carefully away, past the rest of the paddocks and away into the shelter of the trees. Not until they were out of sight and hearing of the Riders did Rowanna collapse against his shoulder and begin to sob.

"Sidh, sidh," he murmured. "Tolo an sirith..." Down by the stream, he moved to sit her down against a treetrunk; but she shook her head, scrubbing at her reddened eyes and the dust across her face kicked up by the mare.

"I need to wash." She crouched down at the water's edge and he heard splashing; he hung back till she turned around, drying her face on her shirtsleeves. "And this -" She groaned as she pushed her hair back from her neck and found the wreck of her braid spilling out in all directions.

"Let me," he offered, drawing her down to sit in front of him at the tree's root. He unwound the binding and carefully began to part the tangled remains of her plait; she heaved one deep comforted sigh, and relaxed against him without demur. As he combed the heavy thickness of the black hair rhythmically through his fingers he began to hum softly. Silver flow the streams from Celos to Erui, in the green fields of Lebennin, in the wind from the Sea... He did not realise he was singing the words aloud, until she asked,

"Is it very bad, now?..."

"Is wh - oh." He thought for a moment. "It is - more distant, here, I think; it ebbs and flows. It does not rend me in two as it did in Minas Tirith when the gulls cried. And yet - it is always there, somewhere; a faint melancholy roar, far off, whenever I stop to listen for it. I will never be free of it again, for now it is woven into my part in the Song; and I do not know if I would be without it - even if I could..." The distant call of the surf was rising within him even as he spoke, his breath coming shorter; hastily he buried his face in Rowanna's neck, inhaling the scents of soaproot and mint with which she had washed her hair the day before, until the tide receded and he was anchored once more.

"What did the Rider say to you?" he asked, wanting to return to the day's more immediate concerns.

"He wanted to know why the mare came to me, when he'd been trying to do just what I did for days. I told him - she was going to him; he would have done it, if not for that buzzard spooking her. I think he believed me, I hope he did..."

He smoothed the dark glossy weight out across her shoulders, divided it, and began to rebraid, catching sections of hair and weaving them back from her face. "And tell me, although I might guess at some of it; what did you say to the mare?" She leant forward a little to let him work.

"That the black terrors from the sky were gone, forever. That her Rider needed her. And that - I knew how she felt...."

"You see?" he said quietly. "Your defeat of your darkness may not be forgotten, but I think it is behind you." She nodded. "And perhaps, sometimes, it will help..." He caught the side braids together behind her head, weaving them together; lifted aside the hair still falling loose below her shoulders, and bent to touch his lips to her exposed nape.

"Mmmm." She arched her neck in pleasure, then settled back against his chest. Somewhere above them a bird he did not recognise began a long liquid cascade of song.

"The sun's going down," Rowanna murmured sleepily. "Look - all that golden light there through the trees..." He nodded.

"It will be a fine sunset. But if you want to see it better - come!" He shifted her gently away from him, and in one smooth movement pulled himself up onto a low branch of the culumalda.

"Climb it? Legolas..." But he extended a hand, and she swung herself up easily enough; Legolas settled them both in the fork of a branch, Rowanna in the crook of his arm.

Before them the meadows spread out glowing in the rays of the setting sun, all the way to Anduin as it shone liquid gold in the distance. A great bank of cloud on the horizon was stained purple and red as the sun sank towards it, a ball of flame. They spoke together:

"Do you remember? -", then laughed. Rowanna nestled against his shoulder; he dropped a kiss on the top of her head.

"That night," she said thoughtfully, "if we had known - that it was not the end, I mean - would you still have - " He smiled into her hair.

"Who can tell? I did not know I was going to. Besides, I rather thought you began it?"

She chuckled. "Strange; I thought it was you..."

They sat quiet awhile, the sky before them slowly turning from gold to rose to palest green. Then he felt her shift, and her breath catch as though she were about to speak; but she said nothing. He waited a while, then:

"What is it, melethen?"

"I was thinking..." Her heartbeat quickened, and she moved restlessly again in his embrace. "We - we thought the world was going to end; and now it hasn't. You saw the Eorlingas, earlier, the way they looked at us... what are we going to do?"

"Ai, the haste of mortals." He stroked a finger gently across her cheek. "Always 'where next?' 'What shall we do?' 'What of tomorrow?' Hush; not here, not tonight."

"But -"

He sighed, half affection, half exasperation.

"Rowanna... Middle-earth has come back from the edge of the abyss. You are here; I can smell the dew on the grass, and feel the culumalda's bark warm at our backs." He gave the tree's trunk an appreciative pat. "What we will do in another moon-round, or a se'n'night, or tomorrow, I know not; and nor, just at this moment, do I care. What do I want to do now?..." He slid a hand to cup the back of her head, turning her towards him, and tilted her face up to his. "This."

Around them the culumalda's leaves rustled in the warm breeze; overhead, little by little, the night became brilliant with stars.

***

Rowanna finished rolling her blankets, and jammed her knee on top of her bedroll to hold it in place while she fastened her pack's straps. The woman Healer with whom she had been sharing the small tent for the last few nights was, she had said, keeping the night watch over some of the wounded, and had left her own bedding neatly folded back; so Rowanna need not worry about waking anyone as she unlaced the tent-flap and slid quietly out into the dawn light.

Mist was rising from the greensward, and as she shouldered her pack and set off towards the Fellowship's camp her boots were quickly glistening with dew. Birdsong was bursting out all around her as she turned away from the main encampment to take a short cut through the trees.

"Aur maer, rohiril." He dropped from a branch ahead of her soundlessly, and her heart turned over at the smile he gave her. "I hoped you might permit me to escort you?"

"I thought you were all going to escort me," Rowanna laughed. "Isn't that why I was invited for breakfast - for the best send-off Sam and the others could contrive? Are they awake?"

"Samwise is, and already building the cooking-fire. And he had Pippin off to fetch water. Frodo I think not - he was awake much of the night; he is still having bad dreams..."

"Poor Frodo," Rowanna sighed. "To have done so much for all Middle-earth, and still to have to suffer for it. Did Aragorn not give him anything?"

"He would have done, I think, but Frodo is reluctant to take draughts every night - he says they make him sluggish and heavy all day. I sat with him by the fire, and told him every tale I could think of from the Greenwood that involved neither spiders, nor orcs, nor the Necromancer - which ruled out a good few. He fell into a doze a little before dawn." The corner of his mouth quirked in the expression she knew so well. "Though if he is as true a hobbit as I think him, he will not long sleep through the sizzling of Sam's bacon and eggs before the smell rouses him!"

"I'm glad he has you to bear him company." Rowanna took his hand as they wandered on beneath the trees. Legolas sighed.

"You know I would come back with you, if not for -" She shook her head.

"Frodo needs you. Aragorn needs you - someone has to keep him from working himself to death with dispatches and commissions before he is even crowned! And I know the White City was.. not easy, for you, before."

He locked his fingers with hers more tightly. "I know we shall all be back in Minas Tirith soon enough, but I would gladly spend a few more days under leaf and sky before I must submit once again to all that weight of white stone. Let alone those infernal gulls! - can you not persuade the Steward to have them declared vermin and offer a reward for every one captured and taken back to the coast?"

Rowanna threw back her head and laughed. As they came to the arch of trees opening onto the green lawn, though, Legolas halted and drew her to face him.

"Lest I am tempted later to scandalise Master Glavradīr or the rest of the encampment -" he arched an eyebrow at her - "or to interrupt the string of messages which Merry and Pippin will doubtless have you take back for their numerous new friends in the Houses; here, melethen, is my parting gift, until I see you again." He pulled her into his arms; and had anyone other than the trees been there to witness it, the kiss he gave her would indeed have been the talk of Cormallen all through the two days it took Rowanna to sail back down to Osgiliath with Prince Imrahil's errand-rider, reclaim a thoroughly frisky Gelion from the garrison there, and make the most of the gallop in glorious April sunshine back across the Pelennor, to a City eagerly awaiting the return of its King.

~~~

Author's Notes:

celonuil - lit, "river-weed", as I had to invent a Sindarin word for watercress.

hildegefetorde is my pseudo-Anglo-Saxon bodging together of hilde (war, battle) and gefeterian, to fetter or bind. The use of the term "war-fettered" to describe what in more modern parlance we might call shell-shock or PTSD, or an equivalent state of nervous shock in horses, was stolen from Altariel's fabulous Faramir/Eowyn story, A Game of Chess - but turns out to originate in medieval Viking sagas, such as the Icelandic Haršar Saga discussed in Lars Nooden's undergraduate thesis, The Viking Expeditions from Central Sweden, here.

Mae agorech, melethen - "you did well, beloved"

Sidh, sidh - "hush, hush "(lit, "peace") Tolo an sirith - "come to the river"

The song "Silver flow the streams from Celos to Erui..." comes from The Return of the King Book V Chapter 9, The Last Debate.

Aur maer, rohiril - "Good morning, horse-lady".

The naming of the red-blossomed trees at Cormallen as culumalda is canonical (thanks to Dwimordene for tracking the name down, in the Appendix to the Silmarillion!) but my speculation that they might be the trees which in modern Earth are called pomegranates is based on the description given here.


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