He swung the helmet high on his head, the metal setting down with its familiar screeching clump. The battle-worn gloves slowly crept over his hands as he gently pulled them on, stopping every once in a while to speculate over each crack in the leather. His clothed fingers slid over his armor and uniform, lingering on the white branches of the tree inscribed on his chest. They finally came to a halt, and rested on the sword that stood faithfully by his side.
The darkness in the young man’s eyes did not merely come from their color. The despair and rage in them were sharp and obvious, clouding the usual soft brown and turning them icy black. His furious gaze fell down to stare at the sword that had guided him through so many battles and so many hours of toil. Then, with a quick movement and a flick of his wrist, the sword was clattering on the other side of the room, and the young man was staring after his adversary, breathing hard.
“I can’t do this.” He whispered, burying his head in one hand. “So help me, but I can’t.”
He stayed in that position for many moments, eyes seeing nothing but the bleak coldness and death that lay ahead of him. The final war was upon them, and he was not ready. He was not prepared to face his death.
Suddenly he stiffened, and the look in his eyes turned murderous. Though he had not heard the person behind him enter the room, their presence was now unmistakable. “What do you want?” He snarled softly, turning to face the unwanted intruder.
She stood just inside the door, all liveliness gone from her to be replaced by a heartsick pain. All anger left him at once, leaving only the painful despair and useless wish for what could have been.
“You should not be here.” He said quietly, watching the girl with sorrow carefully concealed under an expressionless face.
She raised her eyes to meet his, and the pain in them echoed his own. “I could not stand the lonely wait.”
“I know.” He responded gently, letting a hint of his agony creep into his voice. “Cirigrima—“
The tears in her eyes turned them glassy and pale with wretchedness. As he watched, a single drop overflowed and tumbled slowly down her face.
Neither knew which moved first, but within the instant, they were in each other’s arms.
“I don’t want you to go.” She whimpered, burying her head in his shoulder as her fingers dug into his neck and back.
“I know.” He murmured, closing his arms as tightly as he could around her. “But I have no choice.”
“This is madness.” She choked out, tears flowing freely now. “To ride out and die like this—‘tis insanity!”
“What other choice is there?” He asked, stroking her hair with one hand. “I cannot stay here and let you and my city die without even lifting a finger.”
“But—“ She stopped, and he could feel her sobs increase.
“I know.” His words turned ragged with his own unreleased pain. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were to be happy together, right? Married in the spring, to ride out and seek adventures for ourselves, to traverse all the lands of this earth.” He clutched her to him, suddenly overwhelmed by grief. “It was not supposed to come to this! We should not have to stand by and watch our city fall and have all dear to us fade away into shadow—“ His voice broke, and his cries now rang out with hers. “It wasn’t to be like this.” He repeated, hiding his head in her tunic as his tears wet her gown. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
The two stayed clasped together for a long time, seeking nothing more than each other’s comfort. She stroked his hair, soothed him as she would a child, even as he ran a finger down her cheek and whispered words of solace. Their fingers intertwined, locked together, relishing the feel of the other, exploring and learning so that they would never forget. Eyes traced over features, lips touched and cherished, and two spirits for a brief moment connected and knew each other more than they would ever know anything again.
Then, too soon, the call of a horn rang out among the city streets.
His fingers slowed and stilled, then again fell to hers. Hands clutched at each other, and the two lovers leaned together, foreheads barely touching.
“I will never see you again.” She whispered, face pale from crying.
He gently kissed her last tear away. “No fears, sweet. We will meet again, I can promise you that.”
“What are the chances we both survive?” She asked bitterly.
“Whether in this life or not,” He said firmly, untangling one of his hands to touch her chin and raise her head to look into her eyes, “whether in this world or not, in wherever we go when our lives fade into dark as all must do, I will find you.” His eyes showed no hint of a lie, and indeed had no darkness now but shone like torches. “If you trust in nothing else, trust in that. We will be together again.”
She drew in a deep breath, and let it out in a shaky sigh and a smile. “I’ll hold you to that. If you don’t come find me, I’ll have to go searching for you, and you won’t like what’ll happen when I find you.” For a brief moment, her tone was the teasing giggle that she usually used when talking to him.
He smiled in turn, letting the light banter wash over him like a balm. Then the laughter faded from the room, and each knew that their separation could no longer be delayed.
“Watch for me.”
“Forever, if need be.”
He hesitated, then swiftly pressed his lips to hers one last time. With a final squeeze of her hands, he stepped away and was gone, shadow fading from the room and heading into the growing darkness outside.
The young woman waited for a few minutes, then quickly rushed out of the apartments and into the main street. The crowds had gathered, some with flowers, and some with fine silks, and all with the saddest faces that Minas Tirith had ever seen. She took her place in the throng, moving to the front as easily as she could, straining her eyes to see the oncoming march.
Slowly, the Gondorian troops rode past them. Their eyes were cast towards the horizon, a burning flame hot in each of them. They did not shrink back in their saddles but instead looked forward, facing their oncoming doom with a grim pride. All of the city watched them past, occasionally throwing out words of encouragement or thanks. The flower-bearers threw their blossoms in the paths of the oncoming horses, or offered them to a particular rider.
Cirigrima’s eyes were not frozen to the ground, as some others did as if they watched a funeral procession. Her head was held high, and in her stance their was echoed the same ferocity and determination as was seen on the faces of the riders. She carefully watched each face as it passed her, making sure that the visages of her fellow people and friends would never be lost to this world, as long as she lived.
Only once did her eyes cease their scanning, to rest on a young Gondorian rider whose dark eyes glimmered at her from beneath the shadows of his helmet. Their gazes locked and held for a long moment, then his horse was passing her and he was riding on as the procession began to stream out of the city gate.
As the last rider past, she too joined the march, running just behind the warriors until the last had passed out of the city walls. Then she waited at the gate, staring out as their line swept across the plain, towards the death-trap of Osgiliath. When the gates closed, she fled to the nearest battlements, eyes riveted still on the clash of Orcs and men. Even as the screams of the Nazgûl echoed overhead and her city sought shelter and safety in the deepest corners of Minas Tirith, still she did not move from her post. Only until darkness came upon her and unconsciousness closed her eyes did she sleep.
There's more, but I haven't quite figured it out yet. Unconsciousness was a way to end--I don't think I really fainted. But the feelings and memories are all jumbled. When I figure things out, this will be edited.