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2
II.

The day dawns and the Riders set out for the last march to Edoras. She feels strangely nervous.

Soon they come upon the outer settlements, and some broken and burned places where they had been. The black stumps of timbers where a familiar house once stood an ordinary farmhouse, one she has ridden past so many times just to see its lively and ever-changing flower garden are branded instantly into her memory.

There has not been nearly the same destruction visited on this land as on the lands around the stone city. She saw far worse riding across the Pelennor Fields as they departed. But she had never seen it any other way but thus, torn by pits and trenches, smothered in ash and mud. But here, here are places she has long known and loved, not ruined so that she no longer recognizes them, but with stains that look the darker for the swathes untouched.

At last they draw within sight of Meduseld.

To look on it again!

The Sons of Eorl from round about have gathered to welcome their living King home with songs lifting up to the heavens.

She is abashed to hear that they welcome her with song as well. It was not such a large part that I played in all that has passed, just one stroke in one battle, and that under cover of disguise. Tears of gratitude form and fall nonetheless.

They dismount amidst a press of welcomers and reach the stairs. Her feet feel heavy as they climb. The Hall is still standing, and it is unmarked, and already brighter. But an emptiness reaches out to shadow her joy.

Those who dwell there in service have gathered at the top to line the way to the door. They, too, are singing. She smiles, even through a fresh wave of tears, to see familiar, beloved faces.

As I never thought I would!

Her people, her home, all things familiar, bend and ripple before her in the bright sunlight, whether from tears or from some mixing of vision and memory, she cannot tell.

She hesitates before the door. Her brother strides through, beaming and triumphant, and his euphoria sweeps her across the threshold.

The dais looms before them, empty. She halts her steps. Her brother turns, and looks, and comes swiftly back to her.

Dearer than father, I tried to follow...

She feels unsteady, at last overwhelmed, but strong arms hold her upright and she gathers herself.

Now is not the time for grieving. There is more than grief at work, but she does not wish to try to make sense of these things now. Instead she straightens and wills her eyes to take in the interior.

So much to do, to repair, to put aright.

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