Into the West

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The Third Age of Middle Earth; Gondor at the City of Minas Tirith, in the House of Healing on the day of the Battle of Pelannor Fields

As the battle raged below, women tended to those they could save from the carnage of Minas Tirith and were brought to them. Older girls who had no knowledge of healing like their mothers and aunts were either given simple tasks like fetching water and bandages while others volunteered to hold the ones who lay dying; giving what hope they could by bestowing mere kindness. Still, others were in relative safety for the time being in a larger hall deeper into the hill, huddling with the younger children to give comfort.

There were no older boys in the city, save for those who helped guard as best they could. And some lay in the House of Healing; their honor secured as they stepped into manhood; either recovering from their wounds or perishing with honor beside their fathers and uncles and brothers

The woman leaned over the bed and pressed her hand to the forehead of the boyish figure who lay in a fitful sleep. A very old man clad in white soiled with the mud and blood of the battle only hours before walked up and spoke,

“How is he doing?”

She is doing better,” the woman replied; her voice barely above as whisper. While Gandalf the Gray lived, trust was one thing he doled out judiciously. Gandalf the White’s Transformation, however spectacular, was nothing compared to the renewed hope in his heart. It helped that he had known the woman since she was a child; he trusted very few people implicitly but her kindness helped ease another bit of his change forward. Giluren had done as best she could to wipe the blood and grime from the woman's face.

“She keeps repeating, ‘I have to get home, Please? Let me go home.’” Gandalf nodded and out of habit, placed his own hand on the woman’s forehead, which was marked with a bruise just over the right eye. If by her not getting worse, then getting better was better, in a manner of speaking.

“I’ve been around long enough, Giluen, to know the difference between deceit and words meant to spare feelings,” he said as he squeezed her hand, gently. Giluen choked back a sob. He leaned close to the woman in bed, preparing to kiss her forehead when he noticed that a necklace had slipped out from behind her collar.

“Dear woman?” he said, turning to Giluen as he stood up. She went to speak, but words can often fail to escape when the speaker fears what they will mean.

“Your spouse?” he questioned, whispering also as he pointed at the identical necklace around Giluen’s neck. She nodded and put her hand to her face to staunch the flow of tears.

“Her name… her name is Eruanna.”

Some customs die slowly or hang on tenaciously; like an orc to a bone. Others' beliefs eased, reluctantly at first, but forward nonetheless. He knew of a couple at Lothlorien who slowly gained acceptance. But the couple he knew from Stoor disappeared, driven away by ignorance, fueled more by an unwillingness to change than any peril from without. He shook his head only slightly as he returned his attention to Giluen.

“I am sorry,” He said in apology.

“But between the ministering of you and your companions here and others, we will all do what we can. Take heart.”

He squeezed her hand once again; bestowing a kiss on her forehead that would have to do for the woman in the bed. Whether or not it was magic from his mere presence or simply grace from above, Eruanna had drifted softly into the comfort of rest. Nevertheless, Giluen had fallen to her knees, weeping mixed with prayer for her wife.

A cat had wandered into the room and hopped up onto the bed. She began purring enough to get Giluren’s attention. Giluren reached over and kneaded the cat’s neck before dissolving once again into tears

Not long after that, the lower part of the city lay in ruins as each lever was breached. Pure evil seemed to hang like a dark cloud overhead. The screams of terror were drowned out by the mean shout of the orcs only yards beyond the last several gates standing against the horror below. Pippen winced at the loud shrieks but steeled himself’

Gandalf focused his attention on the young hobbit and smiled. Pippin smiled back as bravely as he could and spoke

“I didn't think it would end this way.”

Gandalf shook his head; not in rebuke but in gentle encouragement

“End? No, the journey doesn't end here,” Gandalf said as he used his hand to point all around in a broad gesture,

“Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.” Pippin perked up, his eyes almost sparkling.

“What? Gandalf? What will I see?”

“White shores,” Gandalf said as he leaned in, mirroring Pippins's broadening smile.

“And beyond that? a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

“Well, that’s….” Pippin winced slightly at a loud crash outside the gate. He brightened a bit and continued.

“That’s not so bad at all.” Gandalf nodded and said at last,

“No,” Gandalf said with a soft laugh,”

“No, it isn't.”

The house of healing, hours later…

The work of ministering to the wounded continued, with outer cells to the left and right of the House filled with makeshift beds holding the recovering. Giluen spent nearly all of her time ministering to others; all the while her eyes stole hasty glimpses of the resting figure of her wife.

Gandalf moved from bed to bed and did what he could. As sad as the scene was, it was much better than anyone could have hoped. Almost trailing him, Aragorn grabbed the hands of the living and mouthed silent prayers. With others, he gestured a blessing before grabbing the hands of those who had comforted those who slipped away. The helpers were now almost evenly mixed with the women who had been there all along and men whose wounds did not hinder.

“Gandalf?” Giluren tapped him on the shoulder, almost in apology.

“She….Eruanna…she…She hasn’t much …” She backed up and bumped into Aragorn, who walked her over to Eruanna’s bed, helping her into a chair He was followed quickly by Gandalf, whose urgent pace was not for the dying woman. He knelt down and held Giluren’s hands.

“Hope may fade in this world of night, but…” He paused, almost feeling intrusive. It was one thing talking to Pippin earlier, with everything close but eerily far away at the same time; but it was quite another thing trying to marshal strength for the woman whose hands he held. He was spared that worry when Giluren spoke.

“I….I remember…. You came here when I was a little girl.” She gazed off beyond Gandalf, scanning the room.

“My father lay in a bed not far from where we are. His body was broken. I was crying at the foot of the bed.” She breathed deeply but continued.

“'Blessed be... they said you were here to see the Steward of the City, but you came when you learned of my father.” She paused again searching for words.

“He was almost gone and I was crying. You knelt down and held my hands. ‘What is her name….What is your name?’ you asked as I tugged your sleeve. ‘Giluren,’ I said.” She frowned at herself, shaking her head.

“They always told me to take heart…that my name…it means pale star,” she said as she turned to Aragorn. He already knew since his life was filled with the words of Elves and Men.

“Father stirred only a bit, but you reached over to him, holding his hand, but your eyes never strayed from my face.” Gandalf nodded but did not speak.

“And then you spoke softly. “Pale Star,’ you said. ‘I see you giving light to others in our grey dim world,' you said. I was ten and I never forgot,” Giluren choked back a sob; knowing what is comforting still will not halt necessary tears. Aragon bit his lip as tears fell from his face.

“’ Don’t say,’ Little One, ‘that my father has come to the end.’” Giluren smiled and continued as she wiped her face with her sleeve. Gandalf smiled back.

“Your father has not have come now to the end….White shores are calling...You and he will meet again? ' That is what you said. In his arms…only sleeping.’”

She turned and faced Eruanna. The words, as comforting and true had become, of course, did not intrude upon her grief as Eruanna breathed her last breath. Giluren stood up only long enough to fall upon the bed as she wept harder than she ever had for anyone or anything. Even a centuries-old Wizard cannot do everything. Gandalf turned to Aragorn, but he had already leaned over the weeping Giluren; rubbing her back as he spoke words of comfort in Quenya.

Somewhere else in time…

The inevitable moments ahead might be interrupted by an intrusive beep but it would not be this day, as the nurse turned off the monitor.

Anna Grey stirred just enough to see Joy‘s smiling face; brave for both of them.

“I love you so much,” Joy said. Anna laughed before a cough interrupted her.

“I know,” as Anna recalled an old movie.” She quickly added.

“You…you are my heart…I love you.”

It looked as if Anna was about to speak, but her eyes fluttered and moments later she was gone. Joy had promised, at least, that she would hold it together at least until after the end, but she laid her head on Joy’s arm; weeping.

A few minutes later, the same kindly-looking nurse returned and tilted her head in sympathy; knowing full well the moment had come. She placed her hand on Joy’s shoulder; hoping to provide at least a bit of solace. Joy sat up as she wiped tears from her face. She smiled at the nurse and spoke; providing thanks in a way and comfort for herself.

“Don’t worry…she…she’s only sleeping, " she stammered as she lowered her head back onto Anna’s arm; weeping.

for Anne Thérèse
1954 to 2019
Thanks to Emma Anne Tate for the idea and musical inspiration

Giluren is translated from Tolkien's invented Elven language, Quenya, and means Pale Star.
Erruanna is loosely interpreted from the Quenya and means One of Grace.

Into the Westfrom the Motion Picture,
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Words by Annie Lennox and Fran Walsh
Music by Howard Shore
Sung by Annie Lennox

All characters from the movie and the movie were created by the author, J.R.R. Tolkien, and are considered fair use/fan fiction. All other characters and scenarios belong to this author

Title image altered by FaceApp software

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This story is 1883 words long.