Lothriel heard him approaching from behind her, but she did not glance away from the mound of newly turned earth beneath where her love lay. Carefully, she smoothed the moist earth around the small yellow flowers she had planted upon the mound. It was mere luck that she had found them where she did, growing bright and golden in a patch of rich earth that had settled in a protected cleft of rock, a small patch of color in an otherwise grey cliff of stone. Here upon Haldir’s grave, they were only two brave little spots of gold, but she hoped they would increase, perhaps someday growing to cover the somber line of newly turned mounds that lay here side by side, along the base of the high grey cliff.
“This was his name for me, you know.” She said, nodding to the two slender little flowers that waved bravely in a delicate breeze. “Little flower.”
“It was well given.” His voice heavy with sympathy sounded behind her, and at last she turned.
“Mithrandir.” She murmured softly, nodding a small greeting. “We meet at last.” Her clothes were battered and dirty, and her hair hung long and unbound about her, stringy with dirt and orc blood. But Gandalf hardly seemed to notice as he studied her face with wise, sorrowful eyes.
“I would that it could have been at a happier time, Lothriel, my dear.” He murmured, striding near, and settling himself tiredly upon a ragged stone beside where Lothriel dejectedly sat upon the ground.
“I saw you.” She muttered, lowering her eyes to her hands. “Briefly while you were in the Golden Wood. I suppose I could have met you then. We could have spoken. I am sorry.”
“Do not be sorry, my dear.” Gandalf sighed. “You were soon to be married. You had other things on your mind. You were in love.”
“I still am.” She whispered.
“And you always will be.” Gandalf added with a gentle nod.
“This pain will not decrease.” She said softly. “I will not recover.”
“I suppose not.” Gandalf sighed softly.
“But you have come to tell me that I must return to the Golden Wood.” She glanced up at him, and studied his deep, wise eyes.
“Your kinsmen Rumil and Orophin are very concerned for you. They mean to take you home.”
“All I want to do, is to lay down and die beside him.” She whispered, catching a choke in her throat.
Gandalf drew in a long deep breath, and sighed, “But you must think of your son, my dear.”
Lothriel’s back grew stiff at his words, and her eyes dropped to her flat, narrow stomach as if she expected to see some sign of what she thought only she had suspected.
“A son?” She whispered, her voice barely audible. She glanced again at Gandalf. “A baby?”
Gandalf smiled warmly at these words, and reached out to place a warm, weathered hand against her cheek where the scar was already beginning to fade. “Haldir’s son.” His brows twitched in compassion at the pain that crossed Lothriel’s face at the mention of her lover’s name. “Would he not want you to endure? For your child’s sake as well as your own?”
Lothriel sighed jaggedly at this, but could bring herself to say nothing for a long moment. “Then I will live. For the baby’s sake but not mine.” She glanced sadly away from Gandalf’s compassionate eyes. “When he is delivered of me, then I will return here, and lay down beside my love. And I will never rise again.”
Gandalf’s face twitched with pain as she said this. But he said nothing, and instead, he stood, offering her an outstretched hand, which she took, and rose as well.
Lothriel leaned heavily upon his arm as they walked in silence toward the others; the Elves of Imladris and of Lothlórien their numbers much smaller than when they had marched into the fortress, stood at attention further down the ravine. But Rumil stood near, beside Hasufel who was already saddled.
The king sat mounted high upon his steed, his bearing proud and kingly, though his eyes watched Lothriel with a soft, humble compassion that only served to cause tears to rise in her eyes. His nephew Éomer, and his servant Gamling were mounted beside him with Aragorn, Legolas and the Dwarf Gimli nearby, seated upon their horses as well, with Shadowfax standing near, waiting for Gandalf to mount his unsaddled back.
“Up you go.” Gandalf urged her, his hand ever within hers as, without argument, she climbed upon Hasufel’s back, and touched a hand to his warm, brown neck. A gift he was to her, from the Rohirrim. Perhaps she could use him again, she thought to herself, when she returned here. He would go free then, she promised him in her mind, for she would have no more use for him after that.
The grass waved beneath Hasufel’s striding feet as she rode slowly beside Aragorn out of the ravine and up a grassy knoll. She had little to do for herself, for Rumil walked beside her, guiding Hasufel by the reins, and she felt like a child, helpless. But then perhaps, she was. Her heart was in tatters, her will to live existing only because of the child she knew now grew within her.
Upon the crest of the knoll, the others stopped, though Hasufel continued. Yet still, she glanced back at them as she continued north, and Aragorn and the others turned to face away eastward toward the distant, thundering glow of angry red against the low bellies of the clouds that blanketed the horizon.
“Sauron’s wrath will be terrible. His retribution swift.” Gandalf’s words, though in the common tongue, came to her ears clear in their meaning, and gravity.
“The battle for Helm’s Deep is over. The battle for Middle Earth is about to begin.” As Lothriel drew even farther away, she watched as Gandalf and Aragorn traded a weighty glance. “All our hopes now lie with two little Hobbits somewhere in the wilderness.”
Lothriel turned forward. He spoke of Frodo the little Ringbearer, and his companion, Sam. Their journey continued, scarce of hope, no doubt, and wearisome. Yet hope, what little there was, did remain for the Ringbearer and his ever faithful friend. While for her, hope except for what lay within her child, was forever gone.