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Was it for this?

Written for a Memorial Day Challenge: One character's remembrance of war. This could be a eulogy, a lament, a memory, a visit to someone's grave--anything that serves as a meditation on what war means. Word limit 500.


~~~

WAS IT FOR THIS

But Aragorn was only two years old when Arathorn went riding against the Orcs with the sons of Elrond, and he was slain by an orc-arrow that pierced his eye; and so he proved indeed short-lived for one of his race, being but sixty years old when he fell. Appendix A

Once, when still very young, I passed near this place with Elrond's sons, and they wished to turn aside and visit you. I was oddly unwilling, but they are wise and would not be gainsaid. "Tis high on the heather moorland, open to the sky, a good place," they said, "to watch eagles soaring at dawn."

But when we arrived, an hour before sunset, I felt like a stranger; stood apart and tended the horses, as our brothers, long hair loosed in mourning, keened their lament.

War took you from me, cruelly leaving behind nothing but fleeting memories of soap and pipeweed. When Elrond revealed to me those higher things, my heart rejoiced though they felt distant and unreal, like my new love. Even when later my mother spoke feelingly of your part in the endless fighting; gave me these solider things, your star, your sword, still it did not make you seem real.

At nightfall, against our usual caution, we kindled a fire. Clumsily, new to the art, I lit my pipe, and my companions laughed and moved a little further upwind. "We used to jest with him that he'd be buried with his," they smiled, "and so he was."

I thought of the grave; how a little way beneath the earth the silver rim of a pipe might yet defy decay, and asked if they left him anything else.

"Only her likeness," they said, "for we would not be thanked for taking it from him at the last. Otherwise his clothes, earth-hued like your own. All that we took then, you carry with you now, but for the book your mother still keeps by her bed."

'Tis little enough, star, sword, whetstone, knife, a small box for soap.

That night I watched as our brothers lay dreaming, stars shining in their eyes, and felt it all at last. Countless lifetimes gone since Elros accepted the Gift and it seemed his heirs had nothing to show but the scorn of the ignorant, lonely unmarked graves and the things we could carry on our backs. I had to believe there yet was something more.

For thirty years I sought an answer in war against the Shadow, open and secret, with Thengel's Riders, and in Ecthelion's halls and the caves of Ithilien. Even amongst the Haradrim and the peoples of Khand. While many times, amid grief and horror, I was heartened by ceremony and pageantry, friendship and steadfast bravery, still I felt I had not found the thing for which I sought.

But then, weary at last, I turned for home, and like you before me, or so I am told, I found my answer was staring me in the face.

It is beautiful here now, the heather peaceful in the morning sun. I know you do not mind that it took me a while to find this place again. And our brothers, as usual were right, it is a good place - but not the best there yet can be.

****

Author's note: The title is taken from Futility by Wilfred Owen "Was it for this the clay grew tall?"

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