Title: Ladies and Captains

Author's Notes: I wrote this for July 2010's A Long Expected Contest, with a theme prompt of Freedom. I began to wonder about the human cost of Gondor's long war, and this cheery little piece arose. It's five interconnected drabbles. I'd brag that it won first place for it's category, but it was the only entry. ;-) Still, reviews are always welcome.

Summary: Five drabbles, one question. The life of two citizens of Minas Tirith; the boy sent to war, and the girl who waited at home. *July 2010 ALEC entry*

Disclaimer: I'm sure there is no confusion on the matter, but I don't own any of Tolkien's creations. Imagine that, huh?


-o-o-o-o-o-o-

"Shall you be my captain?"

It is a game the Gondorian children play. Ladies and Captains, alliances forged on the streets of Minas Tirith. A strong captain was desirable, a weak one better than none at all.

He does not know her; later she will tell him that she is a refugee from one of the villages. Later he will tell her of a father lost to war, of a mother stricken with grief. Of a life lived on the streets, a home returned to only when night fell. But for now, there is only the question.

"Always, my lady."

-o-o-o-o-o-o-

"Shall you be my captain?"

It's the same game, but different. Burgeoning hormones change the question, challenge expectations. They are older now, but not old enough to understand.

They are standing in a back alley near a baker's shop; she has slipped away from her duties at home to play today, because he asked it of her. In her hands is another captain's favourite hat, liberated from his head as a lark. The ensuing pursuit will take most of the afternoon. The bustle of Minas Tirith surrounds them, but she is deaf to all but his reply.

"Always, my lady."

-o-o-o-o-o-o-

"Shall you be my captain?"

She smiles as he brushes a stray hair from her face. They stand in their shared bedchambers for the first time. Her hair is done up simply, white flowers from just outside the city gates in her hair. The dress is not new- luxuries are expensive in times of war- but she does not mind. She is his and he is hers now. For tonight, life is perfect.

He leans towards her, lips parted. She meets him, more forcefully than intended. Drawing back, he laughs at her question and repeats his vow.

"Always, my lady."

-o-o-o-o-o-o-

"Shall you be my captain?"

It is a whispered prayer in the long, dark night. She expects no answer; they have lain for many hours in silence. Sleep had claimed him and passed her by. Little wonder, she thinks. He will leave at first light, called to duty. They both know what this means; they have been in Minas Tirith too long to hold out for hope. The widows are on every street.

To her surprise, he moves towards her and lays an arm across her body. His breath tickles her ear as he murmurs his reply.

"Always, my lady."

-o-o-o-o-o-o-

"Shall you be my captain?"

He has returned to her at last. The King has been crowned and the darkness pushed back. Hope has returned to Minas Tirith. Her beloved sits silently on his chair, unmoving. Deft hands worry the white flower that has fallen from her hair. She wore her best gown for his arrival. Simple with embroidery that brought out her eyes; so he had said when he bought it for her. He doesn't seem to notice.

Her question hangs between them, heavy on the air. He no longer knows the answer.

Such is the price of freedom.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-


Feedback always appreciated.