Title: Remember Me
written for TTT prompt #31: Courteous
Beta: Andunea and Charli800
Rating: K +
Warnings: Might be a little bit dark and angsty, definitely AU this time, character death
Summary: Post RotK. Two companions share some last moments together. The one fading, yet proud, divine, royal and courteous as ever, has already gifted his friend with true words of solace and wisdom.
Author's notes: See at the end of this fic
Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own the King of Gondor and his elven friend, the Lord of Ithilien. I don't make any money with this.
"Walk slowly now, small soul, by the edge of the water. Choose carefully all you are going to lose, though any of it would do."
Minas Tirith, early June, year 98 of the Fourth Age
The White City was glowing in beautiful colors as dawn stretched further into the fields of the Pelennor where thousands had once fought side by side. Rammas Echor, the ancient wall enclosing fields and city, appeared like a delicate painting of red and orange in the beginnings of a new day. A few stars lingered yet, but their light slowly diminished, and was being replaced by rosy hues as the morning sky spread out brightly overhead. Ai, the starlight! Both man and elf had loved it, though for different reasons. The Firstborn had once risen from the sleep of Ilúvatar by the starlit mere of Cuiviénen, their eyes beholding first of all things the stars of heaven; the chosen ranger, Strider, had loved the starlight to guide him through lonely, cold nights in the wild, the magnificent stars watching over his every step.
'You would have loved to witness this, mellon-nin, seeing the sun rise over the land once again,' thought the lonely figure standing on the largest balcony of the Citadel's Houses of Healing. He had left only for a brief moment, being weary in heart, body and soul.
Just for a short while had he stepped outside to greet the new day. By the end of it he knew he would be alone, his heart aching for the friend and sworn brother who was about to leave before his time. If there was ever such a thing as the right time to leave. The morning breeze made him shiver without reason since the gusts were of a warm and caressing quality. He had seldom shivered before in his long life. Inhaling deeply, he savored the fresh air, the spicy aroma speaking of a glorious summer day to come. But this time, it did nothing to refresh his weary mind. He was about to lose his best and closest friend--an imagination so very cold, almost frightening--and his heart ached terribly feeling thus.
His heightened senses caught a small movement next to the northern wall in the blink of an eye. One of the master healers stepped from the shadows, head bowed.
"My Lord....it....it is time."
The wind almost carried away the words in one strong, almost offended gust. Nothing more was said. Time......ere long had such a dark thought ruled him.
He nodded and took another shaky breath. Aye, it was time. He felt it now himself. A light was about to go out and even though his hands had started trembling, his place was next to his brother.
The broken figure on the bed was awake when he entered the room. The lingering smell of athelas had done nothing to lighten his own mood, or heal the fatal injuries of his lifetime companion. Not this time. He had known. They both had.
When they had encountered those foul creatures --the last remnants of the Dark Lord's forces after his downfall-- on their way back from the foothills of Ephel Dúath, they had been surprised. The battle had been fierce and quick; the losses with their contingent immense. In the end, they had managed to extinguish the enemy.
But as he had turned to look at his friend who had been fighting alongside him, as always, his eyes had widened at seeing him on his knees, at all the blood he had spotted on his companion's green tunic. A silent knowledge had passed between them, both knowing that he would never heal, would not recover. Too grave were the deep wounds inflicted upon the usually strong body. The body so adept in fighting a way through whatever came to pass.
When he stepped closer and carefully sat down on the large bed, he took one of his friend's clammy hands in his own warm ones and managed a weak smile, a smile like the flame of a candle struggling against a heavy wind. As his fingers intertwined with the pale ones of his companion, he felt the cold emanating from within his friend, even though his fever had reached another peak not too long ago.
Grey eyes and icy blue ones met as they each sought out the other. Pity was not found in that gaze, but a comforting amount of freely given solace. They did not have to talk anymore as all had been said before during their decades of fighting, laughing, living, and surviving together.
Nonetheless, the broken figure on the bed spoke.
"I am glad you are here, my friend. And that you took me to the White City....even if I might have preferred the woods of my homeland....to pass away." The breath hitched painfully in his chest. His voice, slurred by heavy painkillers and a high fever, was no more than a sweet whisper; the High tongue flowing naturally from his cracked lips.
"I thank you for the time....... we had together and I am...so sorry to leave you now." Speaking seemed to become harder and harder. His tone was courteous still, divine, and not the least bit irate at the prospect of leaving his friend and family behind. Every inch a royal, even in parting.
The person sitting on the bed with him put a trembling finger on the lips of his dying friend. "Hush, do not talk, do not make it harder on yourself. I know that it must hurt you to speak. Be at peace, my friend. You are aware that we do not need to......say some final words, aren't you?"
A smile as small as the fleeting moment in which a deer freezes when caught in the woods graced the features of the dying figure. The body was fading fast now, but the soul still lingered within that shell, not entirely ready to let go.
"I was fortunate to have a friend such as you. Nothing more.......to say," were the last words that came from the injured figure's bloodied lips. And as the other softly kissed the forehead of his dying companion, lonely tears born of two races mingled with each other. But those hot and salty trails did not mask the faint, cautious smiles on both faces. Smiles so full of pain and compassion, trust and love between brothers in all but blood.
"Do not fight your failing body, my friend. Go if you must. I will be well. I do not wish you to suffer a moment longer; not for my sake. It is time."
Blue orbs sought out grey ones again as a deep understanding, deeper perhaps than the friendship they had shared for so long flashed between them. When the figure on the bed took his last, shallow breath, a smile was still displayed on his serene, peaceful face. He let the air out of his lungs with a quiet sigh, and his fingers would have slipped out of his friend's grip if they were not still held tightly.
"May the Valar see you safely home, mellon-nin," the remaining friend whispered while more tears forced their way down his cheeks. The room seemed to have filled with an almost palpable stillness that enveloped both figures in its thick, white peace.
His other hand sought out his dying companion's heartbeat.
There was none.
Now, and only now, did he let grief wash over him in a great wave.
It hurt, Ai, it hurt so much to lose a part of himself; to lose someone he should have been able to save. But he knew the Valar did not choose lightly who should enter the Halls before their time. If, yes, there were such a thing as "a right time" at all.
What hurt most he did not know – perhaps the absence of the one person he could truly trust. The absence of his mirthful laughter, his freely given brotherly love, his banter and antics, his royal politeness and his acts of courtesy whenever those actions were needed. His shoulder to lean on, his skill with weapons and his fierceness to trust upon. He sat with the empty shell who had once been his vivid, lively friend for another hour. Only then did the healers gently separate their fingers and make him get up. As he left the healing room, he noticed the smell of athelas lingering still in his hair and clothes. He cast a final look upon the strangely displaced figure on the bed.
His struggling mind had to apply the pictures he needed to save for his own sake from now on: his friend sitting on horseback, laughing and ready for another horse race with the twins. His concentrated and focused gaze upon the enemy during a battle, his graceful movements and his divine, royal courtesy – not only to others of royal blood, but to simple folks and his own people as well.
Slowly, with trembling fingers, he unfolded a piece of lighter deerskin he had taken out of his tunic pocket. His friend had gifted him with a few last written words once he had read his body's signs of deterioration. The handwriting, full yet of verve but this time with fewer ornate arches, was deeply comforting. So were the words written on the small piece of tanned skin. It had been written with a dark green herb ink, written in a tent on their way back to the White City; written by his friend while he was in great pain as hot blood flowed relentlessly from the terrible gash viciously torn from one hipbone to the other.
But those words held so much solace and wisdom that slowly, very slowly, the tears began to dry, and a large wave of gratitude claimed its way into his bleeding heart. A smile almost as mirthful as that of the best friend he ever had crept onto his features as he left the Houses of Healing and walked to the courtyard. The words written in Sindarin were like a healing balm to his soul. And whilst he read the words again and again, he felt the small flame of hope rekindle inside his heart.
To the living I am gone.
To the sorrowful, my pain was excruciating.
To the angry I was cheated.
But to the happy I am at peace until I return.
And to the faithful, I have never left.
I cannot speak, but I can listen.
I cannot be seen, but I can be felt.
So as you stand upon a shore,
Gazing at the beautiful sea
As you look in awe at the mighty forest
Of my homeland and its grand majesty
Remember Me in your heart and in your thoughts.
Remember all the times we loved
The times we cried, the times we fought,
The deaths we defied.
For if you always think of me,
I will have never gone.
Author's notes: Yes, this fic is a little bit different. You all know the game "Clue", don't you? In the beginning, I don't elaborate on who is the one fading and the one mourning, but I left many clues to find out. You may have to read it a second time after that, but I am sure you'll be able to solve my little "Who is who" game, since my clues are easy to discover and very clear in themselves.