Miriel: Princess of Rohan - 11. THE PELENNOR FIELDS
A/N: Table of Contents posted at the end of this article!
THE PELENNOR FIELDS
On the morning of the third day after she and Rolande had spoken together, Miriel was walking along the main path through the village when she heard a shout. Miriel looked up to see Rolande running toward her, his short brown hair bouncing on his head with each jaunty step, and a faint smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.
Rolande had been making steady progress since that night. He seemed to be slowly getting over his heartbreak. He was more sullen and withdrawn, and Miriel had expected nothing less; but he had an excellent sense of duty and it served him well. He played the part of big brother gallantly, and Miriel appreciated it to no end and did all she could to make him more comfortable in her presence. Now Rolande was dashing down the path toward her, and Miriel greeted him warmly with a smile.
"Miriel, Lady Miriel!" Rolande cried in breathless excitement. "The messenger has returned!"
Miriel gasped. Without a moment's hesitation she gathered her skirts and rushed past Rolande, leaving him to catch up in his own time. She arrived at the edge of the village as the messenger galloped up on a swift white horse.
"I bring news from the battle!" announced the messenger.
"Come quickly!" ordered Miriel, and seizing the horse's bridle she escorted them to the stable. When Rolande arrived, he took the tired horse from Miriel to care for it himself. Miriel and the messenger hastened to the house, where Miriel could gather all the news in private.
After Rolande had settled the white horse, he waited for Miriel to come out. He issued some orders, he directed a few workers, and he paced in agitation. The sun rose high in the sky, but still there was no sign of movement from the house.
Rolande was getting impatient. He wanted to know about the happenings in the East as much as Miriel did. At last he could wait no longer, and he left the circle he had worn in the dust with his countless footsteps and walked determinedly toward the house.
Just then the door was thrown open, and Miriel burst into the sunlight with the messenger right behind her. Rolande ran up to her.
"What news, my lady?" he asked.
Miriel looked up, and Rolande gasped. Her face was a shock. Miriel's beautiful gray eyes were overlarge and staring, and her pale face was tightly drawn.
"What is it?" Rolande cried in horror.
"The King," whispered Miriel. Then her lips moved, but no sound came out.
"What happened to Theoden King?" exclaimed a frantic Rolande, who had long been a guard in the palace at Edoras and a loyal friend of the King. He caught Miriel by the shoulders and held her. "Answer me, I beg you!"
"He's- he's dead," Miriel choked.
"No! It cannot be!" Rolande looked dazed and upset, but he gripped Miriel all the harder. "How did this happen? You must tell me everything!"
Miriel and Rolande went outside the village. They sat down in the midst of the windswept plains and Miriel told the sad tale.
There had been a battle in the land of Gondor, which lay between Rohan and Mordor. Outside the White City of Minas Tirith, in the Pelennor Fields, a great force from the West, including the Rohirrim led by King Theoden, rode to the aid of Gondor.
It was a long and terrible fight. The men from the West attacked while the defenders of Gondor waged their battle from within the walls of Minas Tirith. The Witch King, one of the nine evil servants of Sauron called the Nazgul, struck King Theoden down. A young soldier named Dernhelm had tried to defend him.
Dernhelm killed the Nazgul king, but broke an arm in the process and fell ill from the wound. They discovered that this Dernhelm was actually the Princess Eowyn who had ridden to battle in the guise of a common soldier. She was in the Houses of Healing inside Minas Tirith, but it was uncertain if she would survive for long.
King Theoden had named Eomer his heir just before he died. Eomer, now the new king of Rohan, arose and fought valiantly. Then a fleet of black ships sailed in on the Anduin River, and it was assumed that those vessels carried reinforcements for the armies of Mordor. But lo and behold, it was none other than the Lord Aragorn who sprang to shore, leading a host of the Dead from the mountains. The minions of Sauron fled before the Dead in terror. The battle was concluded swiftly.
But even in victory, the losses were great, and Eowyn lay injured and perhaps dying in Minas Tirith. Their strength in numbers was considerably weakened, but they needed to march upon Mordor soon. The outlook was rather bleak.
Rolande sighed heavily when Miriel came to the end of the tale.
"So King Theoden has gone to join his fathers," Rolande muttered sadly.
"I fought beside him, but I hardly knew him," Miriel murmured. "Yet I grieve, for he was a great leader and a valiant warrior, and he would have had me for a daughter had time and fate allowed. And the Lady Eowyn! She marched into battle and now lies at death's door. My brother Eomer, the new King of Rohan, is leading the Rohirrim on a doomed march to Mordor. It is just as I feared, Rolande. Very soon I shall be alone."
They fell silent, for nothing more could be said. But the hope seemed stolen from their hearts. Rolande glanced at Miriel with some concern.
"What about the one you love? You know, the Elven fellow?" he asked tentatively, but there was a sharp note in his voice. "Did you receive any news of him?"
Miriel winced and her frown deepened. She shook her head.
"No, but it doesn't matter. When the war is over, the Shadow will cover all the land in darkness. Then none will be left." She stared at the village and watched the workers bustling about. They were blissfully unaware of the terrible things taking place in the East.
"What are we doing this for, Rolande?" Miriel cried. "Why do we go on rebuilding this ruined land when there is no hope?"
"The battle has not ended yet," returned Rolande in a deadpan tone, for although he shared her sentiments, he refused to agree to such an ugly suggestion.
"We are only prolonging the inevitable!" exclaimed Miriel. "When the Shadow prevails, all will be destroyed and our labors will be in vain!"
Rolande said nothing in reply.
Suddenly, as if to punctuate Miriel's words, the sun was blotted out, and a chill wind swept at their backs from the east. Rolande and Miriel stood as one and stared at the skies. Thick black clouds moved in and stole the light from them. Miriel's hair stood on end and she shivered, but not from the cold.
"Sauron," growled Miriel, eyeing the dark masses in fierce anger. Then she spun and raced down the hill to the village with Rolande right behind her.
"A storm is coming!" Miriel shouted as she ran. "Get everyone inside!"
Instantly the villagers stampeded for cover. The path was choked with running people and the air exploded with desperate cries. It was blacker than a moonless midnight, even though it was late afternoon. Miriel could hardly see her hand in front of her face, and in the midst of the panic she lost her way to the house. The ground shook with violent earthquakes, and Miriel was thrown down. She got up and staggered onward, but she was shoved by the crowd and fell again. Miriel could not rise amid all the people. She crawled in the dust, avoiding forests of running feet as she tried to find Rolande. She climbed to her feet and fought to remain standing.
All at once Miriel heard someone calling her name. She saw an orange glow not far away, shining like a beacon of hope. Miriel turned and groped toward it, stumbling as she went. Soon she was close enough to make out a flaming torch in the gloom. It was held by Rolande. Miriel fell against him and clung to his arm. She was never so glad to see him.
"This way!" Rolande shouted, and he led her through the crowds into the safety of her house. Once inside, Miriel leaned against the wall and Rolande shut the door.
When Miriel had caught her breath, she looked out the window and was pleased to see that the lane was rapidly clearing. As she watched, the last person disappeared into a hut. Everyone had made it to their own homes.
Miriel turned away and sighed.
"There is nothing more we can do for them," she muttered.
Rolande lit some candles and eyed Miriel as he sat down in a corner chair.
"Now what?" he asked.
Miriel shrugged and slumped wearily into a chair across from him.
"Now we wait," she answered quietly.
If you're in a great hurry to know what happens next, you don't have to wait. The entire 30-chapter ebook entitled Miriel: Princess of Rohan can be downloaded at www(dot)talesofmiddleearth(dot)com.
Chapter One: A QUIET EVENING
Chapter Two: RED SUNSET
Chapter Three: THE GLITTERING CAVES OF AGLAROND
Chapter Four: THE BATTLE OF HELM'S DEEP
Chapter Five: FATE'S ARROW
Chapter Six: LEGOLAS
Chapter Seven: ON THE CAUSEWAY
Chapter Eight: A RING AND A PROMISE
Chapter Nine: ROLANDE
Chapter Ten: TROUBLED HEARTS
ANSWERS TO REVIEWERS: Arya_Ilawen41:
Arya_Ilawen41:Heart through a shredder indeed... it was hard to write for that reason. Sometimes that is the fate of bold knights. But the saga is far from over...
Lalaith Elerrina: Thanks, Lalaith. I'm glad you like Rolande so much. Again, this story is far from over, and with any canon story about mortals and Elves there are bound to be... complications. I pretzeled this tale pretty good.
Nawyn: *orders hugs and chocolate to be delivered immediately to Rolande's trailer* Nawyn... gosh. The way you PUT things in your review is just so vivid! Miriel is indeed brave, but very frightened. She knows that Rolande's not the kind of knight to say he loves a woman without a good reason, and telling him that she did not reciprocate was one of the hardest things she's ever had to do. That's why she was crying like that. I never thought of Miriel's bravery in those terms before, but you're right.
Geek_Chick: You're so right, it's really difficult and sometimes impossible to remain friends with someone who has unreturned feelings for you. Either they break off the relationship completely because contact with you is too painful, or they say, "Yeah, yeah, sure, we can be just friends," and then they retreat into this lurking mode, and they think they can just wait it out until you change your mind. It's dishonest, and it's frustrating! Being a girl is a hard thing. I've never had a boyfriend, but I have had two offers of courtship with the express intent to lead to marriage. So I do know. And they were great guys too, but they weren't the right ones for me! It's so hard, sometimes, to line out why you feel things the way you do.
On a brighter note, I have had a relationship like that turn out to be the most beautiful thing... very recently. He honestly has let me go, he's not lurking in wait for me to get all weak and relent. Our friendship is turning into something very beautiful and very special, something worthy of writing books about. So the good news is that it CAN happen, though we had to walk through an emotional Mordor to see the light at last.
Gamer Chick: What an observation. So true. Miriel wishes with all her heart that she loved Rolande instead, because it's the easy way out. But she must stay true to the harder road, because it's the truth, and it's real love for her and Legolas both.