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2
To my friend, who did not save my life

B2MeM Challenge: I18: First Lines: When shall we meet again, in thunder, lightning, or in rain? – MacBeth; Magic and Real: The Poisoners; Aspects of Aragorn: Healer
O72: Roles and Names of Aragorn: Healer (Bwa! Gotcha! Twice in one story!); Aspects of Aragorn: Captain; Deep Thoughts: we; Economy: Real Estate; Genre 1: Coming of Age; March, 3019: March 8: The Dead Receive their Summons
Format: ficlet/short story
Genre: Deathfic
Rating: Teen
Warnings: See above.
Characters: Aragorn, Halbarad, the Dead
Pairings: n/a unless you feel like squinting really hard.
Summary: On having to let go.


~~~

To my friend, who did not save my life

When Halbarad had been a boy, he had seen a cousin step upon a nail, and over the next few days, burn away from fever and fail. He had always known that metal – iron, steel – could kill; he had not known it could kill like that.

Time passes. The boy becomes a man who learns well – so very well – the way of steel. “If I took poison a little each day, it might not kill me quicker than the sword,” he jests sometimes.

“Be certain of it,” Aragorn will answer. “Take poison, I’ll stay my hand that you may regret your folly, for I’ll still have watches to fill!”

“Some healer you are!” Halbarad always retorts.

And so it goes – their long years on the watch slide by as on the edge of a blade, which cuts into flesh, theirs and others’, ‘til at last there comes a door, and a vision: of the oath-bound dead, and he standing among them on the other side.

My death lies beyond this!

He knows then: he has come to be their fellow or their captain, for he can break his oath or be broken by it. Aragorn hears him, bows to necessity – they pass on together.

Afterward, all the long, dark way to Pelargir, they will not speak of that moment before the door – for they will end their days as captains. Halbarad will take his place at the head of every column, and Aragorn will lay aside the captain and become, perhaps, a king, but he was destined never to be the healer in this matter.

“Go,” Halbarad gasps later, struggling against the fatal flow, “for we should not meet again too soon!”

Aragorn bows his head, and, for just a moment beyond captain or king or healer, asks: “Then when?”

“Ask the rain,” Halbarad pants, as vision clouds. “Ask the thunder and the lightning. When the storm passes – but now…”

Now we are only what the hour makes us. In the hour of decision that not even death may stay, they are captains, with companies to call, and orders to give, and they will have to bleed into this ground an army’s worth of men just to hold it an hour more.

Go. Halbarad can speak no more, and he feels the Dead nigh and waiting. Go, go…

A sudden, sharp sting shocks him, and he gasps, opens his eyes to see Aragorn wipe his dagger clean, and raise it in salute, ere he lifts Andúril high. Behind him, someone lifts the flag, and with a roar from a hundred throats, the battle flows onward.

It’s been a long slide down the blade, but it’s cold at the quick end of steel. Time to step beyond that door in truth. Halbarad shuts his eyes, and…

~~~

Ŕ l’ami qui ne m’a pas sauvé la vie: Back in the day, when I actually had ambitions to try to read edgy French novels, I tried reading this one, whose title translates to “To the friend who didn’t save my life.” It was about AIDS in the early years, and prostitutes, and included a lot of medical jargon put together in slick prose. Needless to say, I didn’t make it past chapter three. But the title stuck with me.


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