Beneath the Stars of Elendil - Linda Hoyland
Warning – Character death
Disclaimer; These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra.
Aragorn swung Andúril as he rode into the fray. Orc and Easterling alike fell lifeless from his deadly blows. Alongside him, his Dúnedain fought bravely and well, and he could hear the shouts of savage joy from Legolas and Gimli as they added to their count of slain enemies. The Peredhil rode swiftly around them, cutting paths through foes on all sides.
He was weary; it was days since he had last slept properly. Aragorn knew, though, that here upon the battlefield, there was nothing save to kill or be killed. He intended to live.
His gaze fell upon the banner that Halbarad held aloft proudly: Seven stars and one white tree, the black and silver of the House of Elendil. That banner represented everything he was fighting to protect; everything that Sauron sought to destroy, the land he had the right to protect and claim. Then every stitch upon the banner, the gleaming stars made of gems and the mithril and golden crown, was lovingly wrought, embroidered by his own beloved lady.
A company of Southrons came up from beneath the shadow of a fallen Múmak. They were deadlier by far than Orcs, for the men of Harad were strong, fierce warriors who fought to the death and exercised a deadly skill with their scimitars. Deadlier still were their múmakil, which ploughed through everything in their path. Roheryn had whinnied in terror at the first sight of one such giant beast, but calmed at a soothing word from his master.
A Southron captain, a massive fellow with his black hair braided, his burnished breastplate gleaming over his scarlet robes, rode to the head of his fellows and made straight for the standard-bearer. Aragorn tried to call out a warning, but his voice was lost in the clamour of battle. The warrior's scimitar flashed and Halbarad crumpled in his saddle. Halbarad fell, his hands still clutching the banner. The warrior laughed and urged his snorting horse forward to finish his kill. Elrohir rode quickly between them, flanked by Elladan and five Rangers; yet all beset by other Southrons.
Heedless of his own safety, Aragorn urged Roheryn to his fallen kinsman's side. His Rangers and foster-brothers formed a protective circle around him. Gwindor, Halbarad's lieutenant, gently prized his captain's fingers from the standard and raised it with one hand, wiping his eyes with the other. Gimli and Legolas appeared, leading the rest of the Rangers and some twenty sturdy men of Lamedon. They hacked and slashed and shot at the foe, until the Southron horsemen retreated.
Aragorn dismounted, sheathed Andúril and knelt beside Halbarad. A single glance told him that the wound was mortal, and beyond mending by even Master Elrond's skills. Nevertheless, he reached out to try to staunch the bleeding.
"Leave it!" said Halbarad. "We both knew that this must be."
Aragorn cradled his dying kinsman in his arms. Tears ran down his battle begrimed cheeks. To have their long comradeship come to this, a few moments to say farewell, on a battlefield so far from Halbarad's home with the fighting still raging around them. A warrior's lot and a fate that his kinsman had foreseen, but could there not be more time? He was not ready for Halbarad to die! He could never be ready.
"Do not weep," said Halbarad. His grey eyes looked into Aragorn's. "I die content at your side. Remember me, my friend, when you come into your own. Care for my family. "
"They are my own flesh and blood," said Aragorn. "You have my word. How could I ever forget the man I have loved as a brother these many years."
"Never lose sight of the man you are when you wear the crown, make true all that we dreamt of during those nights when we talked by the campfire," Halbarad whispered, his voice growing fainter with every word he spoke. "One day we will meet again. Love will endure beyond the circles of the world, my king!"
His eyes closed. He shuddered and drew his final breath, then went limp in Aragorn's arms.
For a moment, Aragorn looked down at him, his gaze filled with grief. Then he tenderly kissed Halbarad's brow. He unhooked the clasp of his cloak and placed it over Halbarad's still form. Slowly, and not as steadily as he would have liked, Aragorn rose to his feet and wiped the tears from his face with his sleeve. The time for tears was done, for now. "See that his body is not despoiled!" he commanded the Rangers surrounding him. The men from Lamedon bowed their heads and formed up behind six Dúnedain, as they bore Halbarad back to the ships that had brought them here. The other Dúnedain arose to follow their chieftain back into the battle, with the standard of Elendil still upheld.
Then Aragorn leapt astride Roheryn's back again, a new light kindled in his eyes that no man could withstand. "Halbarad will be avenged!" he cried. He urged Roheryn forward into the fray, cutting down the Southrons until he reached the man he sought. Never would Halbarad's slayer laugh again, nor would his fellows, so great was the rage that burned in Aragorn's heart.
Many were the Southrons, Easterlings and Orcs that felt Andúril's bite that day, but their deaths did little to ease Aragorn's grief for his kinsman.
Five years later
Aragorn emerged from the tomb into the spring sunlight. Despite the beauty of the day, his heart remained heavy. He found himself walking towards the Court of the Fountain where he paused and stood contemplating the White Tree, which was putting forth new shoots. How Halbarad would have delighted at the sight! Instead, he had fallen with the image before his eyes, doomed never to behold the actual tree.
"You look troubled, my friend."
Aragorn was brought back to the present by the soft tone of his Steward.
"I was remembering Halbarad, my kinsman and brother of my heart."
"Today brought both joy and sorrow," said Faramir. "It must give you some solace to visit your kinsman's tomb."
Aragorn was about to retort that cold marble brought little comfort when he remembered who he was talking to. Faramir's father had died upon this day by fire. With him had burned the tombs of all Faramir's kin. His brother, Boromir, who had died but a few short weeks before, had no grave save the depths of the Anduin. He had held Halbarad in his arms when he breathed his last and listened to his final words; words concerned only for Aragorn's good. Faramir had had no such parting from his father. Gandalf had told him how Denethor had sent his surviving son forth to battle without a single word of blessing. "You too have cause to mourn upon this day," he said. "Come, sit with me a while." He led the younger man to a bench beside the fountain."
The two took a seat, silently gazing on the White Tree for a time. "Gandalf told me that your father was begging him not to take you from him just before he died," Aragorn said gently. "He was thinking of you at the end."
"Thinking how he could take me with him beyond the circles of the world!" Faramir said bitterly. "I would not be speaking with you now had you not given me back the life he would have taken from me!" His tone softened a little. "Alas, that a man once known for his wisdom should lose his wits thus! Alas, too, that Boromir tried to take the Ring ere he died! The honour of my house sank low indeed."
"Your brother's last words were of repentance and regret," said Aragorn. "He was a mighty warrior and a great man."
Faramir sat staring at the tree for a few moments in silence. He might have blinked away a tear or two, or maybe the moisture was the spray from the fountain. "The tree is putting forth new leaves early this year," Faramir said at last. "It should be a good year for blossom."
"Halbarad would have rejoiced to see it," Aragorn said softly.
"Will you tell me more about your kinsman?" asked Faramir. "I have heard only that he was a good man who died bravely in battle."
"I will indeed," said Aragorn, "if you will tell me more of the adventures you and your brother had together when you were both lads. Come now, let us share a mug of ale and our memories this day."
As they went inside together, Aragorn's hand resting lightly on the younger man's shoulder, he felt a great sensation of peace wash over him. He would always mourn Halbarad, but he had been blessed to know him for almost seventy years and to be beside him when he took his final breath. No shadow marred the memory of Aragorn's kinsman; as it did Faramir's memory of his fallen brother and sire. Halbarad had sadly not lived to see all they had dreamed of accomplished, but Aragorn sensed he rested peacefully in his tomb, content that he had played his part in bringing about the restoration of the King. Aragorn determined to live each day to make that sacrifice worthwhile. When he too departed the circles of the world, he could tell the brother of his heart that all they had hoped for and more had come to pass.
A/n. This was written for the "Teitho "challenge "Last Words" where it was placed second. It had its origins in my drabble "Vengeance is Mine" also on this site.