Author: Psalm 136
Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings; this idea was inspired by shirebound's "The Vault of Annuminas", which you should check out because its brilliant.
Author's Note: I've always liked the idea where Middle Earth is just a forgotten part of Earth's past and there could be signs that it was real among us now. The idea for this spawned from a conversation Aragorn and Elladan had in shirebound's story, and Elladan hoped that someone would make statues of Aragorn and Arwen, to record their love and happiness together.
Bethany Koerner glanced over her shoulder as she tightened her windbreaker, zipping it up with cold fingers. Her boyfriend of ten months trailed behind her, kicking a walnut-sized rock in front of him, pretending it was a soccer ball, and thus was currently attempting to catch it between his heels and send it flying over his head to land in front of his feet, so he could continue. He was having little success, and while Bethany felt slightly hurt he wasn't taking more interest, she couldn't blame him. She HAD forced him to come along, and it was cold, the wind was blowing pretty hard, and the forecast said it would rain within a few hours.
But she had really wanted to come to this blustery little garden.
It had belonged to her family since World War Two, when her great-grandfather had bought it from a wealthy business partner, who had owned it for several years, and purchased it from some old family whose money had run out. She hadn't even known about the place until she had sifted through some of her grandmother's things when the wonderful old lady had asked her to find a letter from a friend. She had found the deed to the land, and asked about it.
Apparently, her grandmother and grandfather had been gifted the little garden and the surrounding hills for their wedding, and had subsequently kept the place up over the long years. Her grandmother had gushed about how they had walked under the stars for hours on end and danced under the noonday sun to the Andrew Sisters. Bethany loved her grandmother, and missed her grandfather; hearing all of the romantic stories her grandma had made her feel an almost magnetic pull to the place. She just needed to see it.
Of course, her boyfriend, Charlie, hadn't been as enthusiastic, but she had explained it would only be for a couple of hours and she'd go with him to see his favorite metal band, the Wicked Lizard, the next weekend. He had agreed then, and even looked up a little restaurant for them to eat at afterwards. Bethany smiled to herself as she glanced down at the cobblestones. When he wanted to be, Charlie could be the best.
It had taken them several hours to reach the land, but when they stepped out of the car, Bethany couldn't stop staring at the old metal fence that went around the garden, and the dark green trees that reached up to the sky with their spindly fingers, and stood in the earth with their strong roots. She knew this place had to be at least a couple hundred years old, and the air tasted ancient, but the metal gate didn't squeak when she pulled it open, and the cobblestones were still nearly perfectly formed.
Despite the fact it was cold, and the clouds had long since covered up the sun, making it seem at least two hours later than it was, Bethany fell in love with the garden. She was no botanist – she had gained a hatred for plants after a disastrous plant project in tenth grade – but there had to be hundreds of different kinds of plants present. There were small shrubs, giant trees that seemed impossibly high, small flowers that persisted, even in the harsh autumn air, but what was oddest to Bethany was the fact that there seemed to be no weeds. It was as though someone or something had placed a protective bubble around this single area, this one garden, to protect it from the elements and time itself.
Of course, Bethany chided herself, saying such thoughts were childish and strange, but she further explored the garden.
"Bethany, this place is huge!" Charlie marveled as he jogged to catch up with her. "It looked tiny from the outside." He saw her shivering slightly and pulled off his fleece sweatshirt and handed it to her.
"Thanks." She smiled at him, standing on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek in thanks. She struggled for a moment with the sweatshirt, but pulled her head through the top hole to see Charlie looking very pleased with himself for being so gallant. "And I know. It looks like it could go on forever."
"You know," He rubbed the back of his neck. "It's almost a little creepy here. Do you know how old it is?"
Bethany shook her head, wrapping one arm around Charlie's waist. "No, I don't. Grandma said she knew it had been bought by someone named Baron Rafael Livingston in…" She struggled to remember the date. "I think it was 1453, but beyond that, she had no idea."
Charlie raised his eyebrows as his arm went around her shoulders, holding her close. He smiled as she buried her face in his chest; she always did that when her nose was cold. "That's intense… but it's still so well-kept and perfect. It doesn't seem like its over six hundred years old."
"I know." She agreed as they walked together further down a side path that appeared to wind away into nothingness.
The couple was quiet as they surveyed the plants and tried to stay warm within each other's embrace, but then they came upon a small clearing with six benches, three on each side, and two statues that made Bethany stop and Charlie look at her questioningly.
"Beth, what's up?" He asked.
She walked slowly into the clearing, and stood in the middle. For a long moment, she felt as though there were other people standing near her. She could almost hear their voices as she studied the white stone benches. She could imagine great people from days long forgotten sitting there and speaking of matters of state and literature, science and philosophy. It wasn't as though she had some sixth sense or anything, but all of the stonework was still white and perfect, and the benches had curious designs on them. She was an art major at the nearest university, and she had never seen the like.
She turned to see Charlie bending over to peer at the benches. "This place is so beautiful. I mean, it's so old, but it seems…" She gestured with her hands slightly, unable to find the word.
However, English major Charlie always had one on hand. "Ageless?"
A slow half-smile formed on Bethany's face as her eyes shined. "Yeah. Ageless." She became solemn as she looked at the statue nearest to where she and Charlie had entered the small area, and then turned around to look at the one on the opposite side. "Oh, Charlie… look at these."
Charlie, intrigued by the amount of interest his girlfriend had in the two figures, went to stand by her. One was a great man, easily over six feet, with the colors of his hair and clothing still perfectly intact. He had dark hair and grey eyes that still seemed to glitter with his ageless wisdom and authority. He had broad shoulders that tapered down to a trim waist, and powerful legs. He was clothed in the finest garments of his era with a white tree and seven stars on his tunic, and had a sword at his side. A vibrant green gem hung from his neck, and a crown was set upon his head.
The other… Charlie cared deeply for Bethany, and thought she was truly one of the most beautiful women he had had the blessing to see in his life, but the other statue was a woman of greater beauty than any man had ever beheld in his life. Her dark raven hair spilled down her shoulders, and her eyes held more wisdom and beauty than Charlie could ever hope to gain in his entire lifetime. She had youth and age etched into every inch of the sculpture. Her gown was a pale green with bell sleeves and a modest neckline. There was a hint of a smile curving at her lips, and despite the wisdom of the ages in her eyes, she seemed to be filled with joy.
Bethany looked from one statue to the other, her eyes serious. "They're looking at each other." She observed.
Truly, the two statues were perfectly across from one another, and with the way their heads were titled, Bethany could only assume they were looking into each other's eyes. The art of the lines of their bodies suggested that they could move at any moment and walk to embrace the other. She had no idea who these people were, only that they could be no less than a king and his queen.
Spurred into action from that thought, she bent down to examine the base of the king's statue and ran her fingers over the characters etched there. "It must be… I don't know, early Celtic or something." She muttered to herself and she stood up. "I wish I knew who they were."
"Maybe the artist created his own language so no one would know." Charlie pointed out with a shrug. "Maybe the fact they were together was scandalous and horrible, but… I don't know, so wonderful that the artist had to recreate them to remember them, but he couldn't allow anyone to know who they were."
Bethany shook her head. "No, that can't be it." She walked to the statue of the man. "Look at him! He's a king. And she…" She gestured to the woman. "She's his queen. I don't know an artist within the last thousand years who could create something so beautiful and so intricate, but someone had all of the time in the world to beautifully shape these two." She took a deep breath. "They look so in love." She whispered to the wind.
Charlie wrapped his arms around Bethany. "Come on, let's go. It's getting super cold, and its starting to rain." As if on cue, a fat raindrop splashed on her nose, and he laughed, leading her back through the garden.
Bethany followed his lead, but promised herself she'd be back. There was something so… ancient about them, something that told her they were the type to risk it all for the fate of their world, even if it meant they could not be together. They were selfless rulers, but somehow, they had fought to be together, and had gained a lifetime of happiness because of their efforts.
Little did she know, she was more correct than she thought. Two uncannily similar dark-haired men had labored for years over the statues, for they would have given the task to no one else. The elder of the two had promised himself the great King and Queen would be remembered throughout time, and their story would always be told. He knew it would be forgotten eventually, the truth lost to flights of fantasy and fairytales, but he knew someone would figure it out. The two had loved them, the couple, endlessly, and had done what they could in the time they had remaining after their father left in a ship, to never return.
The elder of the two men (brothers, in fact) who created the statues – his name is long-forgotten – knew that for the stories that seemed to mirror his own reality, what had happened to his beloved sister and the man he called 'brother', someone had created small figures to commemorate the goddess who fell in love with a man. Someone needed to remember the lady who fell in love with a man who was to be King.
Long years passed, and as the two brothers came close to the end of their time on Earth, they finished their task and found peace within their hearts. Someone had remembered the greatest king and queen to ever live, and someone, somewhere, many, many years after their deaths, would remember again, and tell the tale.
Bethany had been told stories of Prince Charming and his princess who had gone to the halls where the dead wait to bargain for his life, and of the warrior who loved his lady enough to let her leave him so she would be safe from the coming darkness. She had heard the tales of great immortal men who fought against the cruelest darkness that had ever been seen. She never believed them, of course, but she would tell them to her children, and to her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, if she lived to see them, because they were the fondest memories she had of her childhood.
So the two brothers had been right. Someone would remember, and the story of the man who took up his sword and his birthright to become a king worthy of his lady would be told. Perhaps not in its entirety, but it was enough.