The Long Winter- The Return to Helm's Deep.
Four horses approached the gate of Helm's Deep. The riders were silent, the memories were too strong to do anything else but remember.
Rein looked about him. The snow had not yet come for the winter, the fortress stood tall and silent, looming closer and closer. In his head he could hear voices, some stronger than the rest. Taina's young and innocent voice, his father's tired voice, Kaina's baby cry, his mother's voice when she was ill and Maina... Maina's exhausted, yet hopeful voice. A tear rolled down his face, he tried to hide it and looked over to his new wife, Enawel, to see if she had seen it. Her thoughts were elsewhere though. Her family had also suffered terribly during the Long Winter. Rein rode nearer and put his hand onto her hand as it lay on the reins. She looked up, startled, and smiled faintly at him.
Taina looked at Rein and Enawel, then she turned and looked at her mother. They all looked sad, and she knew why, but she could only remember the day that the snow had finally melted. She smiled to herself as she remembered everyone's joy that day. It had been such a moving moment.
They moved slowly up to the place where the refugees had been staying. Rein looked at his mother as they entered it. He knew what she was looking for as her eyes searched the place. It was so silent, so empty. It was a strange feeling, seeing the place that had caused them so much pain, now emptied of the people that it had once held.
Rein dismounted from his horse and began to walk over to where he remembered the graves were. There was a small tree growing up directly above where he had thought they were. He was about to turn away and look somewhere else when something caught his eye. A small stone, peering out through the branches of the trees, barely visible. Quickly, he scrabbled around in the ground and found the other two headstones, the writing was no longer readable, but there was no doubting whose graves these were.
The next morning Rein woke up early. He walked over to the graves and he cleared any earth that was on them.
"Never thought I'd be back here." He said quietly. "After all these years, the memories... I did what you said Maina. I did my best to take care of mother and Taina. I nearly failed you, but I just needed a little nudge in the right direction."
He broke off into silence.
"I never got a chance to say how much your work was appreciated... by everyone around, but even more so by me. You could have just sat, as I did, worrying about what was to come next. You put your family before your own life. I could have helped. It could all have been different. But I did not. I did nothing."
He brought his hand down forcefully to the ground. His tears were running down his face and splashing on the ground.
"I'm so sorry Maina. I'm so sorry." These words he repeated over and over again, until his sobbing made him unable to speak properly. He knelt, bent over with grief, for a long while. However, by the time the others woke up, he had composed himself.
"Rein?" Taina's soft voice was cautious. She walked up to him, placing her hand lightly on his shoulder. She sighed as she realised what he was looking at.
"Rein, you did not cause Maina to die." Rein sat, silent. Taina sighed again and knelt down beside him. "It would be just as fair to say that I caused her to die."
Rein stared at Taina in shock.
"But that was no fault of yours... you were ill..."
Taina smiled and slipped an arm round her older brother.
"And it was no fault of yours either. She worked herself too hard, you tried to stop her did you not?" Rein nodded silently. "Precisely. You did everything you could. Try and remember the good times we had, before then."
There was a silence between them. Finally Taina stood up and walked to the place she had been when she had discovered that the snow was melting. Rein followed her.
"It's one of the few memories I have of here. That day when I saw the snow, and I screamed so much. Mother was angry with me, she thought that something awful was happening to me. And then the look on everyone's faces when they saw it too..."
"You probably do not remember this, but in the last few weeks of that winter all anyone had to do to believe that spring would come was to look at you. You were always so hopeful, you never let us think that we would all die here. And you were right."
Taina went red. "I do not remember that." She said, embarrassed.
Their conversation was interrupted by Enawel calling for Taina. She said something to Taina that made Taina stop in her tracks. The colour seemed to drain from her face, but she nodded and made her way back to the camp.
Enawel walked up to where Rein was. She looked across to the horizon, as Rein looked at her he saw that there were tears on her cheeks.
"Are you alright?" He asked, concerned.
"Yes... it was just... you'll find out later..." She broke off nervously. Rein looked puzzled at her, but turned back to the landscape he had been looking at before.
Suddenly Enawel slipped her hand into his. "Rein..." She started. She broke off again, but then continued after a short pause.
"Your mother wants to see you, after... after she has talked to Taina. She wants to talk to us all... separately. I have already seen her. I think... She was... She was saying... goodbye..." Enawel looked anxiously at her husband. Rein had a strange look on his face. His eyes were far away, he stood for a while, processing this information. His hand squeezed Enawel's hand harder and harder.
Taina knelt down beside her mother's blanket. There was a look of peace on her mother's face, she looked weakly at Taina.
"My little daughter... what would I have done without you to look after me? When the illnesses grew more frequent... who would have cared for me?"
Taina grasped her mother's hand.
"Everyone would have. You know that they would have."
Her mother smiled faintly. She lifted her hand slowly and stroked her daughter's cheek.
"Taina, you have put so much of your life into caring for me. Now you will be able to marry, to live your life as you always should have. You were not meant to devote your whole life to your failing mother."
"You weren't failing mother. You aren't. I will take you home, I will take care of you. Just so long that you are with me." Taina tried to keep the sob out of her throat, but she could not, the tears began to roll down her face.
"So brave... just like Maina... but you have to let me go. You have grown up now. You do not need me anymore."
"Yes I do! I need you, we all need you!"
"No... no you don't. Taina, you must have known that you could not have me forever. You will be able to go on, and continue your life... making the most of it."
Taina looked away, her tears were coming so fast down her face now that she could no longer see.
"Taina." Her mother's voice made her look back. "Taina, just know this. I love you and I always have, I do not know if I told you how much you taking care of me meant to me. You were always there, when I fell into a fitful sleep, and you were always there when I woke up screaming. Thank you."
"I love you too..." Taina murmured softly.
"Tell Rein to come to me."
Taina nodded and stood up. She walked slowly, unable to see where she was going. When she reached Rein and Enawel she could not speak but they seemed to know why she was there. Enawel gave Rein a small push forward and he made his way down to where his mother was. Taina collapsed, crying, into Enawel's arms. Enawel held the younger girl close and did her best to comfort her.
Rein walked over to where his mother was and sat down beside her. He did not speak, or look at her at first. Finally he said thickly, "Why are you doing this? You could still survive, I will look after you..."
"Rein, you went through a lot during that winter. You must understand why I had to come back here. Put thoughts of regret and grief aside, live happily with Enawel. You are very lucky, Rein, so lucky. Look after your sister, make sure she does not become so upset that it finishes her off. She is made of stronger character than that."
Rein nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
"Rein... I go now, to be with Sineam, Maina and my little baby Kaina."
"No!" Rein shouted, but as his mother's eyes closed he knew it would be the last time they did so. He bent over her, sobbing so hard he did not notice Taina and Enawel come up behind him until Enawel but her arms around him and pulled him up.
Here lies the wife of Sineam of Rohan,
Beloved mother of four,
She lost her husband, and two children during the Long Winter,
Yet when her strength failed,
Here she returned,
To rest forever with those she loved.