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1
Waiting

This story was my very first attempt at Tolkien Fan Fiction and the first fanfiction of any genre or fandom that I actually finished. It's an unapologetic Mary-Sue, you've been warned!

//denotes flashback//
denotes elvish


~~~

Who else is gonna bring you a broken arrow?
Who else is gonna bring you a bottle of rain?
There it goes.
Moving across the water.
There it goes.
Turning my whole world around.

Do you feel what I feel?
Can we make that so itís part of the deal?
I've got to hold you in these arms of steel
Lay your heart on the line, this time

I want to breathe when you breathe
When you whisper like that hot summer breeze
Count the beads of sweat that cover me
Then you show me a sign, this time.

Can you see what I see?
Can you cut behind the mystery?
I will meet you by the witness tree
Leave the whole world behind

I want to come when you call
Iíll get to you if I have to crawl.
They canít hold me with these iron walls
Weíve got mountains to climb.

--Robbie Robertson

***

The woman sat in the window embrasure shivering, seeking solace from the screams of pain and death and the cold darkness that wreathed her city. A great battle raged on the field below Minas Tirith; the first circle of the city was engulfed in flame. Against all hope, she scanned the field and strained to hear any sounds that might signal a rider returning home to Minas Tirith...and to her.

"Oh, beloved...come home to me. I am so afraid."

Twice that evening there had been riders, and she had tried to act casual as she hurried down to the courtyard to greet them. The first time a wounded soldier rode in from the battlefield. She sent him to the Houses of Healing where he could be tended. The next time the trumpets called, the rider was Mithrandir on his silver horse, Shadowfax. But neither was the one she hoped for against hope.

She sought to calm herself by sewing on her embroidery. It was a gentler occupation than sewing up torn flesh, a task that had occupied her day and night since the siege began. Absently she took a stitch in the fabric and pricked her thumb with the needle. A drop of crimson blood stained the finely woven tunic she had hoped to finish in time for her lord's return. She shuddered, feeling even colder, and refused to think what the sign might mean. She drew her shawl more tightly about her shoulders and turned back to the window, her eyes drawn against her will to the battlefield and the long road stretching beyond.

When again she heard the trumpet call that signaled riders, her heart thumped heavily in her chest. Laying her work aside, she walked briskly toward the stairs to the courtyard, willing herself not to run. She lifted the silvery velvet of her kirtled gown--he'd always said it was the exact color of her eyes--so she would not trip on the stairs. She always donned a fresh gown in the evening after tending the wounded and before sitting down to wait. She was determined her lord should come home to beauty and grace, not bloodstains and filth. It was a vow more difficult to keep with each passing day of war and siege and battle.

She reached the courtyard just as two riders clattered in. No, three, for she saw that two shared the same mount. She searched their faces eagerly as they dismounted, hoping for a familiar glimpse. But there was nothing familiar about these riders--nothing at all. They all wore identical, travel-stained cloaks of gray fastened with handsomely made leaf brooches. All were covered in the dirt and gore of the battlefield. But that was the end of any similarity between them.

One of the riders was dark and heavily bearded. He was as short as a child, though much stronger in build. She knew that he must be a dwarf, though she'd seen them but seldom. He groaned loud complaints to the companion sharing his horse as he dismounted awkwardly, though he patted the horse gratefully when he thought no one was looking.

Dismounting with an agile grace that betokened much practice, the dwarf's companion landed on the ground without so much as a whisper of noise. When he turned to answer the dwarf's complaints she saw his face and drew a startled breath, for even beneath the grime of battle he was so fair that she knew he must be one of the elder folk. She had heard stories of elves since the cradle, but never had she seen one. The days of comings and goings between the fair folk and men were long past in Gondor.

The other horse pranced restively as his rider, a human man with a sternly regal countenance, dismounted. As he raised his arms to calm the skittish animal, his cloak fell back and the woman saw that the leather bracers encircling his arms bore the symbol of the White Tree of Gondor. Heedless of the horses' sharp hooves, and of the tall man's imposing stature, she darted forward and grabbed his arm, demanding, "Who are you? Where did you come by these bracers?"

***

Aragorn looked down wonderingly at the slender woman, truly no more than a girl, who clutched his arm with such strength. "Why, lady, my name is Aragorn, and I took them from a fallen comrade, if you must know. I bear them in tribute to him." He frowned as her hand fell from his arm and she turned white as the snow atop Caradhras. "Lady, are you unwell?" he asked solicitously, although the errand on which he had come pressed most urgently.

"Please, tell me the name of this comrade," the woman whispered. "Please."

He paused a moment to look upon her, seeing that his answer meant much to her. Her face was a pale oval in the deepening twilight, crowned with a tumble of curls the color of autumn leaves in shadow. Although her head was uncovered like a maiden's, her gown was of a rich fabric and he thought she must be a lady of some stature in Minas Tirith. Still, Aragorn felt there was something he missed as he finally spoke.

"His name was Boromir and he was uncommonly brave, even as the men of Gondor are reckoned." He gestured to his companions. "Lady, we have ridden hard and seek the Lord Faramir. Can you take us to him?"

His keen eyes saw her hands and lips tremble and prepared for quick action should she swoon. But in the next moment, she straightened her back and held her head high as she gave him answer. "I can not. Lord Faramir has taken a grievous wound. He is in the Houses of Healing and may not be disturbed."

"Who, then, takes charge of the city while Lord Faramir lies wounded?" Aragorn asked, glancing at his companions. The elf, Legolas bore an expression of sorrow Aragorn had seldom seen on his merry face. The dwarf, Gimli looked from Aragorn to the woman with such unease that even as she spoke again, Aragorn knew who she must be.

"You may know that Prince Imrahil and Mithrandir have taken charge of the army, but I, Lady Alathiel, take responsibility for the folk of Minas Tirith." She paused, and though tears streamed freely down her ashen cheeks, still she held firm. "I have done this in the name of Lord Faramir. My husband...Lord Boromir...would have wished it."

Her words had barely reached his ears when he heard the sound of clattering hooves. …omer and Imrahil were riding through the gates and such distraction did their arrival cause that the woman slipped away before he had time to give her words of comfort.



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