Sunset and Simbelmynë

by Froda Baggins


The little white flower was so pure, so innocent, unstained by battle or sorrow or blood. Théoden gazed at it for a long moment, keeping it gently between his fingers as it shivered slightly in the Rohan breeze. Framed by the dark, grey door of his son's grave, the simbelmynë blossom signified to him the spirit of his son. Brave, pure, honorable.

Dead.

He let the blossom drop, bowing his head in unbearable grief as it floated to the ground and lost itself among the other white flowers. They grew so thickly, here on the graves of his forefathers.

And now his son.

Shaking his head, Théoden grimaced in sharp pain as a tear slid out from beneath his clenched eyelids. Why? he cried in silent agony. Why must my son lie here among my forefathers, while I yet live? Does he not deserve life more than I?

Memories of the burial ceremony came back unbidden. Desperately he struggled to push them away, but the images flooded persistantly through his mind. Théodred on the bier, still and blue-lipped, lifeless fingers gripping the swordhilt. Éowyn's grieving voice, singing the ancient burial in strong but bitter tones. The darkness of the tomb, engulfing his son's body as the door was sealed shut.

He remembered his son in life, always full of hope. Despite the despair of all others, Théodred had somehow always seen a light on the horizon. A glimmer of victory beyond the darkness that  encroached upon their land with the advances of Uruk-hai and Wargs and shadows in the East. And that was the manner in which he had fought: his sword had flashed always not for a last stand against evil, but for the hope on the horizon.

Is there hope? Théoden asked himself. Was there ever? The young die, and the old and withered remain behind. What can we do? With what can we face the shadows in the East?

Briefly he thought of Éowyn, one of Théodred's dearest companions in life. She had been losing her grasp on that hope, but Théoden knew that his son must have kept a glimmer alive in her. He thought of Éomer, who, hope or not, had simply fought. Outnumbered meant nothing to him; he simply refused to tolerate Uruk-hai on Rohan soil.

And he, Théoden had failed them. Weakened, persuaded, and consumed by the poison on Gríma's tongue, he had not been there to stand beside them as Rohan slowly fell. He had not been there to fight alongside them, to drive away the Uruk-hai even for a last stand. He had not been there to support and encourage his people as they fell into despair.

He had not been there to hold his son's hand as he died.

Bitterly, he wept.

Beyond him, gilding the plains of Rohan with magnificent, vibrant light, the sun sank toward the Western sky. The light fell in long shafts upon Edoras, upon the Golden Hall, upon the burial mounds themselves. The simbelmynë became gently tinted. The grey stone of the door to Théodred's grave itself turned faintly gold, a glimmer of warmth upon the cold. Faintly, amidst the sunlight, Théoden thought he could hear his son's laughter, wisps of joy and hope among the simbelmynë. He raised his head, and against the dark door of the tomb, Théodred's face seemed to shine out briefly, smiling encouragingly at his father.

Fear not, and hope always, father, came his voice, drifting on the golden shafts. Darkness will not endure forever. You will be free of it, and then you will stand and fight. And you will conquer. In the end, Mordor will be defeated and hope won.

Théoden gazed unseeingly at the tomb, remembering. Somewhere, in the darkness of his near memories, those words leapt out at him. Théodred had spoken them to him as he sat shrouded by darkness, old and weak on his throne. Once more, he felt the warm, loving grasp of his son's hand on his own, and heard the encouragement in his words.

Softly, almost imperceptibly, Théoden sighed and smiled back through his tears. His hand brushed against the hilt of his sword as he rose, and its weight at his side gave him a new strength. Turning, he faced into the brilliant sunset and let the breeze toss his hair. He knew now what he would do, what lay ahead. Battlefields, swords clashing, horns blowing. Banners flowing on the wind. Brave men would fight fiercely, and he, Théoden, would fight with them. He would fight for the hope of his son, for the victory Théodred had always seen beyond the Eastern shadows.

For Théodred, for Rohan, for all of Middle-earth.

As he turned and walked back toward the city, he stooped and plucked a single, snowy-white simbelmynë. Tucking it away near to his heart, he turned his face to the Golden Hall and went forth, to face battle with hope.