[ TRIGGER WARNING: This entry has mentions of character death and grieving. Read at your own risk! ]
After her second night in the fair valley of Rivendell, spent with kind and generous company and sleeping within the splendored and peaceful eaves of the Hall of Rest, Finchley had awoke that day feeling generally more rested - this place did a credit to its name. But there was no shaking the warning she felt somewhere deep in her heart after the dream she had with flying, white birds and the sound of someone singing in grief. It seemed that her feelings were echoed by her travel companion, Ryn. She tried not to let it get her down overly much.
Eventually, she had met up again with one of her dearest friends, the Dwarf, Bild, Son of Bóurr, who had welcomed her and Ryn into the valley the very day they had arrived, travel worn and considerably beleaguered in both body and spirit, in the central courtyard of the House of Elrond. As asked for by the letter Cesistya have given her to hand over to the healers of Rivendell, he had managed to procure for her a flask of miruvor from the abnormally tall and, in Finchley's good opinion, generous elf lord, Silwe - who had already been kind and gracious to her the night before, despite not knowing her well and the on-again-off-again-troubled mood she had been in.
Many pleasantries were exchanged between the group and, after a while, the Dwarf retreated back up to the Hall of Rest to procure the other things - bandages and the like - that kind Cesistya had asked in her letter to be given to Finchley to aid her on her journey. She and Ryn sat down on a nearby bench to wait for him, Finchley dipping her hand the bag of sweetened and spiced hazelnuts that Silwë had to generously given to her the night before and munching to her heart's content.
It was an idyllic moment. The calm before the inevitable storm.
The metaphorical clouds began to gather when the doors to the Last Homely House opened and none other than Xandilif, the Banshee, stepped through, looking very much like she had been riding for the better part of three years, still in field armor.
Finchley, who had still been munching on the contents of the bag she held, looked up to see who had come and her mouth dropped open. Thankfully, she'd already swallowed the food. She stood in wide-eyed wonder. "... Lif?"
Upon seeing her petite form, Xandilif cursed and drew nearer. Ryn, upon realizing what the elf's appearance might mean, stood as well and stepped closer to Finchley.
"'Ummm... Hey, Sweetmeat.. and whoever the feck you are... Xan said I'd find ya here..."
Finchley turned to set her bag of hazelnuts and the elvish cordial she had been given earlier down upon the bench and immediately went to give Xandilif a delighted hug, never minding all the armor she still wears. The Banshee allowed the hug, patting the Woman's back like one would pat a large, over friendly dog.
After awhile, Finchley semi-awkwardly pulled back from the hug to gesture to her companion. "Oh, this here's Ryn, by the way... But, Xan said you'd find me here? What for? I thought you were all the way in Gondor."
"I..I was... Oh, got your letter. Glad ya ain't dead."
At that, Finchley had to laugh a little and shake her head. "Pfft, no, I ain't dead."
Xandilif paused for a moment and cursed again. Ryn found it odd that the elf wasn't being loud or angry but remains standing there in silence, leaving the other two to talk. Finchley looked at the elf and tilted her head, blinking a few times in confusion.
"Lif?... What's wrong?"
"Been rehearsing this... Can't work out a decent way... and I ain't gonna dance around this, seen that too many times..."
Finchley merely looked on, still confused, giving her the space to say her peace.
"Sweetmeat... Finchley... he's dead. Hawk is dead."
Behind Finchley, Ryn looked to the floor, eyes wide in shock. Meanwhile Finchley merely stood there silently for a moment, looking thoroughly confused and lost, as if none of this was real. What could Xandilif mean by saying that? What did it mean?
Oh, but all to soon the proverbial tidal wave came crashing down over her head as the realization began to set in and the words became more real with each passing second. Finchley looked to Xandilif again, face going quite pale as she shook her head. "...What?" She asked, still shaking her head. "Lif what do you mean? What do you mean, Hawk's--... Lif?"
Xandilif merely stood there, looking very much lost herself. "They were moving him to Minas Tirith... Had a whole tricky set up with a decoy... Decoy got roasted, and then Hawke... He went over a cliff... And he's gone... I... I'm sorry Finchley."
Finchley froze, looking at the Champion, wide-eyed with shock. One of her hands came up to clutch at a space near her chest as she let out a gasp, sounding like she was in some sudden and great pain. "... What do you mean? He's gone?" Her boyish features scrunched up a little and she reached out with her free hand to grasp at Xandilif's wrist, though not hard. "Where has he gone? Why?"
Nearby her, Ryn balled her hands into fists and turned to punch the pillar behind her, probably harder than she intended.
Xandilif raised her free gauntleted hand to cup Finchley's face "Him and his horse both went over... into the rocks. Helluva drop. He's gone. I just--... I mean-- ... He-- ... I'm sorry."
Finally, the tears began to fall, spilling down her cheeks like rivers. "He's.... gone!" She clutched at the elf's wrist a little tighter as her whole body began to shake. The hand at her chest turned into a fist and she let out another pained gasp. "It hurts... Lif, why does it hurt?" The tears come faster and she began to get a little weak at the knees. "L-Lif!"
"It hurts cause it's supposed ta... Ain't no way to make it do otherwise, baby. He deserved for it ta hurt..."
Finchley seemed to curl in on herself as she slowly slid to the floor, Xandilif moving with her to support her. The tears kept coming and coming as the harsh and painful reality set in even further. She reamined clutching at the elf's wrist as if it were a lifeline in the middle of a stormy sea. "Why? He didn't do anything!... Oh, Hawk! I was too late!... No no no! Lif, why?"
Carneryn looked furious as she turned back around, nursing her bruised knuckles. "And do we know who did this?"
"That ain't all clear yet... But, we are gonna find out," Xandilif replied, holding Finchley less awkwardly now. She looked to the crying Woman. "And don't you start with the damn guilt... Enough people are sayin' this was their fault already. Don't need you goin' on about it too."
Finchley just let herself be held as she openly wept, still clutching at her chest, feeling very much like someone had taken a hammer to it. Or a knife. Or something else incredibly painful. "I didn't get to tell him. He didn't know just how much I--" She was cut off by her own crying again.
"He knew, baby," Xandilif responded. "He knew... He was stupid about you."
Ryn sat on the floor, resisting the urge to punch something yet again. She was so angry she couldn't even speak. Finchley shook her head and hiccuped a little as she tried to catch her breath through her tears. "Not enough. I wanted to tell him. I wanted him to know for sure... He never thought much of himself and I w-wanted to tell him--"
Xandilif held her tighter. 'Yeah. He was stubborn that way... But he knew. I know he did."
Finchley shook as she continued to cry and finally released the Champion's wrist to grasp at her own short locks of hair, making a fist. She curled up in Lif's embrace and tried her best to stifle a the wail that escaped her. "It hurts!... Oh, it hurts, it hurts..."
Xandilif just kept patting and comforting the Woman as she let out her grief. A brief moment passed and soon Finchley realized that a few stands of her own hair were now wet with tears that were not her own. She hiccuped violently and turned her head a little to glance up at the elf. She uncurled her hand slowly from her chest and reached upwards to lay it shakily against Xandilif's cheek, which was now wet with tears. "L-Lif..."
Somehow, seeing the Champion, of all people, cry broke her heart further. There were no words in the tongues of Elves, Men, or Dwarves to describe her new sorrow in this moment. After a few more hiccups she found the strength to uncurl herself, sit upright, and wrap her arms all the way around the elf again.
Xandilif held Finchley tighter. "I'm... I'm sorry."
Finchley buried her face in Xandilif's shoulder and shook her head. "Y-You didn't do anythin' wrong... You came all this way to tell me."
"'I promised ya something... And I didn't manage it... And I didn't just come ta tell ya."
Finchley nodded and pulled away a little to look at the elf square on, still shedding tears and shaking slightly.. "I'm so sorry... It was unfair of me to make you-- I was afraid when I wrote that letter. I did you wrong, Lif. T-Twice now."
The Champion shook her head. "Nah... You didn't do me wrong, Sweetmeat."
By this time, Ryn seemed to have completely lost all of her bluster and fury. "D-Do we know anything at all about who wanted him dead?"
"Yeah, but it makes my head hurt. Something about his real father and a princess and a prophecy and blood magic... But we got people workin' on it," replied Xandilif as Finchley dissolved into tears all over again. She held the Woman tighter, wiping her tear stained face upon her short locks of hair.
"O-Of course it's that complicated," Ryn stated quitely, looking conflicted and worn out.
After a bit, Finchley found her voice again. "... Where is his b--... Where is he now?"
"Out to sea we think. The Hounds searched, found nothin'... Not him, Not the horse... Just blood."
At this moment, Bíld had finally returned, trotting down the ramp with purposeful little steps with a bundle under his arm. The Dwarf froze, however, when he reached the floor of the courtyard, blinking at the sorrowful scene before him.
"Lif... I know I don't have the right to ask anythin' of you. I was unfair and I asked too much already. B-But--" Finchley was cut off by her own crying again. Her hands balled into fists as she tried to fight it down. She didn't want to be a coward about this.
Xandilif held her tightly and kissed top of her head. "What, Sweetmeat?... Anything..."
"Take me there. T-Take me where Hawk fell. I want to see it. I have to see it... And don't leave me alone."
Bíld's eyes widened and then softened again, brows pressing delicately together. He hesitated, but then descended the last step and came to stand next to Ryn, holding the bundle still.
"That's why else I came, Sweetmeat. Rian said ta come get ya... to bring you home."
(to be continued)