By San Antonio Rose
I had to go down to the harbor to see them off. It saddened me that so many of our young men would have to face the horrors of war, but there was no choice; if we were to survive, we had to ensure that our allies would not be annihilated. So I went down to give the boys our best.
I found one young man looking at his sword oddly, as if he had never seen one before. I assumed he hadn’t; his dress and his tanned skin gave him away as a farmer from the Westlands, and such folk seldom had use for weapons. The lad started when he saw me—a shade guiltily, I thought.
“Where are you from, son?” I asked.
“Sweetwater, sir,” he replied.
“Is this your first time away from home?”
He nodded. “We used to go down to the other coast when I was a kid, if a ship was coming in, but we never stayed overnight. And now that I’m working on the farm, I don’t have time to go much of anywhere.”
“I thought as much.”
We regarded each other for a moment.
“Are you frightened, lad?” I asked softly.
“Maybe a little, sir,” he confessed in a low voice. “We ain’t been to war in a long time, and I’m a little nervous about goin’ across to the Old Country. And I know there’s a good chance of gettin’ killed.” Courage and pride suddenly flashed in his eyes as he stood a little straighter and continued, “But I’m safe enough with this unit. We’re a good group, and we’ve trained long and hard together. I can trust any one of these fellas to watch my back.”
“Indeed.” I smiled. “You sound very proud of your unit.”
“I am, sir,” he beamed. “We even came up with a motto: Voronda.”
“Voronda. ‘Ever Faithful.’” I inclined my head a bit. “I’m sure the king will be proud of you; you seem prepared to serve him well.”
“We are, sir,” the young farmer nodded.
Just then, a sharp whistle caught his attention, and he excused himself to finish preparing to board ship. Before I could ask his name, he hurried away, singing a little marching ditty to himself:
Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word
That Edain are coming,
Edain are coming,
The drums rum tumming everywhere.
Say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word
We’ll be over, we’re coming over,
And we won’t come back ’til it’s over over there!
I watched him for a moment until he disappeared into the crowd of other fine young men preparing to leave Númenor for Middle-earth. Perhaps he would have the honor of meeting King Gil-galad or some other hero whose name has become little more than a fleeting memory of the First Age. Perhaps he would never return.
“’Failon is a good lad, my lord,” a commander remarked, noticing my gaze. “I am certain he will do well in battle.”
“’Failon… a good name for a soldier,” I mused. “Thank you, Captain. I trust you will have reason to commend young ’Failon to Prince Ciryatan.”
“I would not doubt it, my lord.”
“May the Valar bless and protect you all.”
“Thank you, my lord.”
I rode back to the palace in Rómenna in silence and did not change into my royal robes again until after I had groomed my horse well. It was nearly time for the evening meal when I finally emerged from my chambers.
“Well, Minastir?” my wife asked as I sat down beside her at the table. “Will they fare well?”
I began to answer guardedly, since against the power of Sauron no army was guaranteed victory. But then I thought back to that young farmer, so eager to do his part for king and country, and a song crossed my mind:
When ’Failon comes marching home again, hoorah,
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then, hoorah, hoorah.
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
And the ladies, they will all turn out,
And we’ll all feel gay when ’Failon comes marching home.
“Yes,” I said at last. “They shall fare well.”
A/N: In case you haven't figured it out yet, this is a fic based on the story of Númenor in The Silmarillion. I’ve deliberately Americanized this somewhat, partly to make the song fit better and partly to show that some things about war never change. I was inspired by reading Jay of Lasgalen’s “High Flight,” which was written for a HASA WWI poetry challenge; it’s not exactly an official response, since I’m not a member, but I thought it might be a fitting tribute to our Armed Forces. I’ve made my farmer boy a “Marine” in honor of the USMC’s 229th birthday and in honor of my cousin, who is a Marine. And of course, the original words and music to “Over There” were written by the late great George M. Cohan, and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” is a traditional song from the Civil War era.
Semper Fi and Happy Veteran’s Day!
Westlands = Andustar, the western arm of Númenor
Sweetwater = Nísinen (lit. “fragrant water,” according to Encyclopedia of Arda), the lake just east of Eldalondë, the harbor to which Elven visitors from Aman came before the Shadow fell on Númenor
Old Country = Middle-earth