The Wife of The Gatewarden
By Thalia Weaver
Losian clutched Fretha and Denbold to her chest. War had swept Rohan before, but never with such strength and ferocity; Helm's Deep had not been occupied for centuries. There was a strange heaviness in her limbs as she clutched her children close. The men had fought so long that it was hard to believe there could ever be daylight again; in the Glittering Caves it was always night, a night whose stars hung in shimmering daggers from the black rock of the sky.
Every so often a sharp cry could be heard- whether from Uruk or man, she did not know. How long had they been here- trapped in a never-ending twilight as lovers, friends, brothers, fathers and husbands fought and died outside? Denbold whimpered and clutched his mother tighter, some instinctive fear making him shudder.
A different fear clutched Losian. Her Hama- guard of the king, so loyal, so brave- how could he survive the battle? So much death- Losian unwittingly held her children tighter, making Fretha wriggle in protest. How many widows and orphans would be made tonight? How many unions broken, how much blood spilled? Losian thought again of her Hama.
He had not been her only suitor, nor her only love. But there was something about the warden's sweet smile; the way he wanted only to be with her, and protect her- the way he looked at her as though she were the only one in the world. She loved him.
War was a fact of life: everyone knew a man who had ridden away to war and never returned. It was an honorable death, full of glory - but no matter how he died there was still a man who would never return home again. Losian had comforted the stricken wives of many soldiers. She wondered if any would come to mourn with her … so many would die, tonight.
There had been a goodbye, full of tears and kisses; he had lain with her and told her he loved her. He had told her that he did not think any of them would survive this night. She had cried, hot tears full of anger at the enemies who would force them apart.
What was it like, she wondered, to fight someone who really- really and truly-wanted you to die? Someone who had no children, and no family, and no home : nothing but a will to murder you?
Losian shuddered. Hama had killed his share of orcs, and sometimes, when she looked at him, there was something in the back of his eyes, a hollow darkness that made her want to clutch him close until it went away.
A great bang sounded from outside. Women and children clutched each other, whimpering in fear and shock.
What could it be? whispered Guthen, her closest friend. Losian shook her head, mute. She did not know, as with so many other things.
All her life, Losian had had occasional flashes of prescience. They could not be predicted, but came to her with a clarity that was somehow more vivid than reality, as though she were seeing through the mists of time into a sharper dimension. Over time she had learned not to doubt the premonitions. One came to her now, blocking out the crowded cave.
She saw a pile of Uruks, lying dead, and a crowd of Rohirrim exulting with the relief and joy that can only come from living when by all odds one should be dead. And then- as they found the ones who had fallen- she saw Hama, her Hama, sword in hand, as steadfast in death as he had been in life. And so Losian knew. He was dead. They would triumph. He was dead.
Her Hama, gone. And his Losian, still alive.
What was this feeling, beyond grief, beyond loss, when your heart had been ripped out and cast away?
Perhaps it was the inevitable aftermath of war. Perhaps it was best not to dwell on him- after all, they would triumph in the end!
* * *
Losian wandered long in dreams, after the War ended. Men and women alike began to avoid her, for fear of meeting her eyes and being caught in the soulless stare that spoke of one already dead walking in a living body. Fretha and Denbold were quietly taken away to live with their aunt, and Losian was left alone in the house that had been so small when Hama had been alive, and now was cavernous.
And then, one day, she was found dead, unmarked still, as though she had simply stopped where she was when Hama died. Perhaps she had.