Disclaimer: Tolkien authored Middle-earth – Kortirion authored these drabbles – a set of three.
He grabbed the water-bag gratefully, filled his mouth, spitting to remove the bitter taste of bile. His stomach was emptied, but the reflex to retch remained, leaving him shaking.
The older man clapped his shoulder, “It happens to all of us the first time.”
He meant it in a kindly way, but young Estel, new-made ranger, still felt to show a weak stomach was to let down the Company. The cause, the marauding Wildmen they’d butchered, bestrewed the glade in a bloody horror of hacked flesh.
Learning death is not always glorious made a bitter lesson.
Legolas handed him a small, leather flask, elven liquor kept for... such times. Aragorn was about to refuse, until he read the concern in the other’s face. He swallowed a draft, grimacing at its strength before the liquid warmed his throat, and his fea – they had no time for bitterness here. Decisions needed to be made ...proprieties observed; he could not allow himself the luxury of grieving. That would come in the bitter dark of nightime, when memories crowded back that this was yet another life he couldn’t save.
He buckled the vambrace tightly, his only outward sign of mourning.
Half-seen, someone gently cupped his hands around a goblet of fine, red wine, his favourite vintage. King Elessar nodded over the cup, the heavy odour reminding him of former times. He smiled. An almost bitter tang... it tasted of shared feasts, of long discussions into the night, of plans made... especially, it tasted of one loss he’d never forgotten, one laugh he still heard in dreams.
Perhaps, they would meet again... Before dimming eyes, a host of figures greeted him in passing... and behind the throng he saw... a smile to take the bitter pill of death away.