Disclaimer: Middle Earth and all its inhabitants belong to J.R.R. Tolkien. No money has been made from this endeavor. No mumakil were harmed in the writing of this story.

Requiem for a King: Prologue

He was young once, young and hale, strong of body and of spirit. He was young once, and the future had stretched before him as endlessly as the wind-swept plains. When had all that changed? When had he grown old? Was it when his sister died? His wife? Had it been when he had taken the children of his sister in to live in his own home? Had it been when his father had died, and the weight of the world suddenly fell on his own shoulders? Or had it crept upon him, subtle and slow as a crawling snake that eases itself onto a sunny rock? The venom had crept slowly through his veins, slowly but inexorably, and who among men could fight it when it felled even the greatest? But it had not conquered him, and his thoughts were his own, his mind clear.

The grass was wet beneath him, wet and sticky with his own blood and that of his horse. He could not blame the stallion for the thrashings of his agony, for so too would he roll if movement were left him. But the pain faded, dulling with each beat of his heart as the blood seeped into the soil, red dew giving his life back to the land of his birth. The stench of foul beasts was about him, the smell of blood and of burning and of things he could not name. Perhaps they had not a name. Yet there came another scent, slightly smoky but not foul, and the soft sound of mail that rang like the shivering of small bells. His hand was lifted, a distant feeling, as though it were only half his own. He opened his eyes, blinking to clear them, and his gaze fixed upon a small figure he had hoped to leave behind, to save him the anguish of this blood-drenched field. A smile came to his lips, red with his own blood, yet there was a gentleness to it. Gentle words he spoke, of forgiveness and farewell, and of hope, for had he not accomplished great deeds in the bright sun, defying the shadow? There arose in his heart a longing for his sister's daughter, who he would never see again, and for his sister's son, and he asked for him, hoping he was near. He could taste the blood now upon his lips and knew more stained the ground with every labored beat of his heart. Then the world spun about him, spun until he could not be sure of his senses. Voices called, but he could no longer place whose or from where. All he knew was the endless echoing of his own name.

"Théoden! Théoden!"