My Father, My King
Chapter Four: Night
Tonight I sit by the fire, as my father once did. The comparison is apt: both of us wasting our last day before burning embers, embittered with longing and desire to change the past. I, who hated my father for his abandonment…that I should now indulge in the same weakness? A cruel irony. But my father was loved for his great deeds, helm-clad on the field of battle and crown-clad in the rebuilding of the country after the war…my head is bare, of achievement and of love. But I do not mind so much, anymore.
I loved my father once, before the years took their toll on me, before he died silently in the night with no one to attend him. Yes, loved: and my brother. I loved him also. It is a strange thought, now.
So many years. So many bitter years…I have no more bitterness now. I know my father's mind, now…drifting back and forth in a vacant sadness, longing for the days when everything was clear and nothing was beyond my reach. Oh, I remember those days! When still I had the bloom of youth. I have only sadness now, that I did not truly know my father, that I wasted so much time in resentful hatred. Oh, hatred…I cannot hate him now. I wonder if I ever did.
I loved my brother. His reign was everything he was: noble, brave, gentle, strong. Rohan regained much of her former glory in his time. He is gone now: passed away surrounded by his children and his loving queen, peaceful, deserved and timely.
And I remain, remnant of a time now past. But not for long. Even now I drift, sitting by the fire tonight. Even now I slip away, as the flames burn down to embers. Even now I wander the paths of dreams, asleep without dreams or closed eyes. There are many memories to recall, in this lonely peace…
"Theoden," my brother calls. I turn from my chair beside the fire. My brother is an old man, hair white, face covered in the wrinkles that are the valleys of time.
"Elfwine?" He sits beside me in the other chair, basking in the fire's glow. We are two old men in the firelight.
"This peace. Do you know what I speak of?"
I look at him blankly, unsure what he is talking about. My Elfwine, still the same man he was. He will never fade.
"I do not have much time on this earth now, my brother." There is no doubt in his voice. He is tranquil, his face containing some transcendent peace.
"Think you this, on your soul?" I do not want him to die, my
Elfwine, my rock- my brother.
"Yea, as sure as I have a thought or a soul." He smiles at me. "Have peace, brother. It is time."
"Nay, Elfwine, do not die and leave me without a soul." Without a brother.
"Theoden…" His face is shadowed for a moment. He takes my hand. "You must let me go."
"I cannot, Elfwine!" I know he speaks truth. Tears course down my face. I cannot lose him. I cannot lose him. He is the only thing I have…the only one who could ever take the place of a father long lost and unmourned.
"Do not hate him, Theoden." We both know of whom he speaks. "He was even as you are. The two of you are more alike than you can ever know."
"Elfwine…" he is wise, my brother. I cannot lose him. "Elfwine, promise me you will never leave me."
He takes my hand and places it on my own heart. "I will never leave you, Theoden, so long as you remember me."
I remember him now, the only thing I ever loved…
Now I know Elfwine's peace. Soon I will join him again. The fire flickers, casting shadows on the room. I let my eyes drift closed, wandering far beyond the realms of time.
Now there is only stillness.
I am here, my brother…