TURNING OF A PAGE
A firelit room in the great halls of Meduseld
To hlaford mín Elessar, Aragorn King
Wes ðu hal, my friend and brother,
I feel the touch of autumn in the air tonight and find my thoughts turning south to the White City and one there who remains ever dear to me. Upon the downs the grass curls yellow and frost pinches the breath in the mornings. You will be pleased to know, however, that I am warmed by the attendance of family and friends, including our own Master Holdwine, that dear holbytlan Meriadoc Brandybuck. The old fellow looks quite fit and his wit is still keen as a blade. If your ears burn it is because we have whiled away many an evening telling old tales and your name is often upon our lips. Strider indeed. Were we ever so young as that?
I find odd pleasure nowadays in watching memories play in the dance of a warming fire. My son tells me the men once said that the honor of riding with their king was only matched by the saddle-sores thus incurred, but of late I prefer a more sedate chair. The truth is, mín leofe fréond, the long years of my strength and manhood demand payment at last and I do not believe I shall see the spring. But grieve not for me, nor must you trouble yourself to journey hither when the season might turn against you, for I am at peace and there is naught to be said between us that has not already been spoken. You have known my heart since the world was much younger and another age yet ruled.
Strange how memory calls forth images of such clarity. Almost sixty-five summers ago it was, but only yesterday that I stood before you and renewed the Oath of Eorl. "Between us and the Great People of the West there shall be friendship for ever: their enemies shall be our enemies, their need shall be our need." What strange fates move us, that one day upon the long grass we two should meet, a Northern ranger and a captain of Riders, each upon his deadly errand with no certainty that any should prevail. Yet our need and yours were one, and chance or perhaps fey design brought our paths together and so we forged war with the banners of Gondor and the Riddermark flying side by side, as in those days of old. Stranger yet were the paths that led the Third Marshal of the Riddermark to the throne of his people, even as you gained the White City and all the peoples who looked to her. I hope my people will remember me as a just king, whether or not I was always wise. Théoden King who was as father to me and Théodred his son, slain too soon, remained ever the mark I strove to reach.
Ah, and I see again our banners high upon distant winds, even to the Sea of Rhûn and far lands such as my poor imagination could never have thought. I have seen the great mûmakil thundering with a voice of trumpets upon legs like mighty trees. I have seen rivers that run and are swallowed for ever in the great sand-seas of the South, and slept beneath distant skies wherein even the stars become strange. I have waged war for the sake of peace, and learned that grief is the price of victory, but all must be risked if men are to be free. All these I have done with sword and song, for my great love of my people and the Lord of the White City, and for joy in the world and my place in it.
I would like to ride once more upon the broad breast of the Mark, tall in the saddle of a good horse that lacks only wings to fly. I would like to stand upon a high hill with the wind in my face, a free wind untrammeled by shadow or fear. I would like to look again upon the Hornburg, the place of the Riddermark's darkest and greatest hour, and there mourn our brave dead and listen if their ghosts might whisper yet. I should like to rest there a while by Háma's grave, and remember my friend from long ago. I would like to see the White Tower of Ecthelion at sunrise, and give honor to the un-dimming beauty of your queen, Arwen Evenstar. I would like to hear again the horns of Rohan ringing triumphant in the morning, and to see once more the White Horse on Green flying beside the White Tree of Gondor. I would like to see you, brother, and look in your eyes one last time.
Ah, but I can do all these things, even now. I need but close my eyes and I see you, I see them all, my beloved ghosts. I can almost reach out a hand and touch you all, and this quiet room is suddenly full.
The hour grows late and now Master Holdwine sits nodding in his chair by the fire, for I have long been silent, and warmth and a bit of meat and mead is enough to make an old hobbit content. You will see him soon, hlaford, and Master Peregrin as well, for they will come to you in Gondor when all is done. I pray I have been a good host to them and that they will speak well of me when they come.
Do you greet your Queen for me and offer her my greatest affection, for if you are the strength then she is the grace of your kingdom. Kiss your daughters and embrace your son on my behalf, I beg you. Remember me to Legolas and Gimli when you see them next, and remind them of a day in the tall grass when I met three of the greatest friends ever known. My love to you and my faith to you, now and until we meet again and share the cup of fellowship in the far halls of my fathers.
Peace be yours,
hlaford mín - my lord
wes ðu hal - be thou well
mín leofe fréond - my dear friend
I know that Tolkien never had Éomer lapsing into Old English, and that his use of Anglo-Saxon names for the Rohirrim was rather arbitrary, not a suggestion that they were indeed Anglo-Saxon. However, the Rohirrim did in fact have a language of their own, and since I don't speak it, I have taken the liberty of letting Éomer use OE terms and/or endearments as representative of the Rohirric tongue. I believe his long friendship with Aragorn (and the fact he was also a king) would allow that.
Thank you to Julia C., who dropped the nuzgul in my lap that inspired this thing .... :-)