Disclaimer: not mine, Tolkien's.

A Field of Flames

Even though I have tied a scarf around my mouth and nose, I can smell it: the stench of death. It is all around us. The smoke from the pyres is rising and making a cloud as dreadful as that darkness which smothered us until yester morning. A league away I can see the fumes from the great burning of that winged creature, the one which carried their captain. They say that the lady of Rohan and a halfling slew the creature and its rider together, and that both now lie abed in the Houses of Healing, and would be dead were it not for the King.

If I straighten from my labours, and turn, I can see the tents, and there is a tall straight figure standing and watching us. There is no standard flying, and he bears only the token of the green stone, but the word has gone out - this is our King, the Elfstone. He came from the river, in the ships of our enemies, but from my station on the battlements where I was tending the minor wounds, I saw the flag on the masts. The tree, and the stars, and the crown. In that moment, I knew we could win, and the soldier whose arm I was bandaging knew it too and would run back on to the field.

But now is not a time for lingering and watching figures from legend. The field must be cleared of these bodies. In pairs, we bend and lift and throw as best we can, stepping back hurriedly so as not to singe our clothes. Mostly, they are Orcs, evil creatures with flesh already rotting, and the blood is almost black. We are to cast off their helms, and already there is a heap of iron reaching as high as my waist. The bodies do not burn well. Their limbs contort in the heat, the faces grimacing. An hour ago, we picked up one who was not quite dead, and there was a scream that rent my heart.

They are not all Orcs, though. There are Men here too. They have unfamiliar faces and clothing, painted with strange marks, but they are Men. As we lay them on the pyre, I cannot help but wonder if they have women waiting for them, somewhere in the South; if their names will be remembered in honour as their children grieve. It makes me think of my Anborn, preparing even now to go out again and return to Ithilien with the great army that will leave the day after tomorrow. Will he come back to me, or will he perish for our King and for Faramir whom he loves?

My back and shoulders are aching, and my lungs are full of the smoke and dust and stench. We throw an Orc on the flames, and I turn again and shield my eyes against the sun. The White Tower is glistening in the light, the banner of the Stewards shining, and I feel my eyes fill with tears. There is another battle to be fought before this war is won and that tower is safe once more. But the green stone bound on the brow of our King flashes, suddenly, and I bend to renew my labours. In this moment I know that I too am a soldier of Gondor; this is my battle and if by winning it I can better serve the King and the City, I will fight on.