Bywater and the Bearers of Promise

- jan-u-wine

How many here as have seen a man die?
How many as know the freed arc of blood rising,
red ribbons
flying 'gainst the gold hairs of the sun,
descending like uneasy rain to the mouth of the earth.
How many
as know the sick-sweet rot of flesh,
hewed and hidden
'neath forest's creeping green.
How many
as know the dull'd  twist of sword or axe cleaving bone,
shearing a beating heart from a breast,
or a brain from its grey cage.
How many as have taken a life
and given naught in return?
How many?
It was quiet at the Cotton farm.
Quiet at table,
quieter still in the poor parlour.
Not as quiet as my Master,
but just as meaningful.
They didn't like it,
didn't like as he hadn't   
drawn blade himself,
didn't like as he
(so they thought)
had no care to defend
even his own home.
Bywater pulled the last
of bravery from him,
I reckon
the blood staining his doorstep
with a dying curse
finished the job.
And I didn't think of aught
but that he should feel
once the Shire was,
and so was not to hand
on a day grey'd with despair.
There were not many days left, then,
though I knew it not,
not many days
as granted him
more than an orphan'd
of the joy he'd paid
dearly for.
Before I could wink,
we had him safe to home,
sun falling through the roses of a morning,
all the Shire gold as ever the Lady's mallorn.
And my Rosie wed me.
my Rosie, with the ribbons in her copper-fine hair,
she wed me,
there in the Party Field beneath the calm blue sky.
There were two of us to care for the Master, then,
in the midst of the caring,
it all became so usual,
(so much a part of who we were),
I could not see it was all for naught,
could not see pain beneath a tight smile,
nor put sense to the meaning of his ever-far-afield
I suppose, somehow, I thought he was nigh to his same old self.
As these things happen, my Rosie-lass bore me a child.
Born on a day of hope, she was,
a day which two years since
began in desperation and ended
upon a blessing.
A girl-child, a lass of star-flower-gold locks, and not the Frodo-lad we'd expected.
And my Master laughed.
He laughed,
and found a proper name for my pretty lass,
a name of Shire and Stars,
a name of magik and memory.
I never heard him laugh, not ever, again, after that.

And now he has gone.
and left naught but the bare bones of a pledge.
That is what he named us,
beneath the knowing stars,
hope twining to hope,
and the Fair Folk's song
among familiar trees.
No, my Master,
that we are no longer.
That we have let go of,
and hold only to what remains,
to that which ever we  were,
that which ever we shall be:
Bearers and keepers of a promise.