To Death and Beyond

Author: Rivergift

Nominator: Linda Hoyland

2011 Award Category: Drabble Series: Character Study - First Place

Story Type: Drabble  ✧  Length: Drabble Series

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: A pair of drabbles. When Halbarad rode with the Grey Company to aid Aragorn, he bore something made by the Evenstar of the Elves...(Word count: 2 x 100)

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Reviewed by: Abject  ✧  Score: 10

This is such an incredibly exquisite piece. Drabbles can be hard to craft and write, not to mention conceptualise, as they do require careful word choice, painful cutting of words, which often results in slightly stilted language. Not so for this! With beautiful, fluid prose the author takes us to that one moment in the midst of all the great deeds at the end of the Third Age and makes it matter. I love how Halbarad's utter loyalty and Arwen's quiet commitment are both shown, through the one thing they have in common- a great and unwavering love for Aragorn. One thing I really enjoyed about this piece was its last line... I really loved that and it was a great tribute to Halbarad's stubborn loyalty, he who bore the King's banner to war and fell there... This is just a snapshot of a second in time that I'd never really taken the time to think over before, but this really grabbed my attention and left me feeling a sudden, deep grief for Halbarad- what a loss! That the man most loyal to the future ruler would never see the banners of the King over the white city! This was a really brilliant gapfiller that caught my mind, broke my heart, and forced me to think, all in the span of 200 words, which is a truly impressive feat! I hope we'll be seeing more of this kind of work from this talented new author, and best of luck in this years' MEFAs!

Reviewed by: Swiftsong  ✧  Score: 10

That feeling of satisfaction mingled with sorrow when you read a little gem like this! I loved "To Death And Beyond", a pair of truly lovely constructions of word and concept that together form a miniature masterpiece! Language used is flawless; I was impressed by how the whole thing flowed impeccably, bypassing the pitfalls of awkward language that sometimes confound new drabble writers - all the word-cutting inevitably results in stilted tone. But not so here: the words used, the phrasing employed, all wore an understated elegance, enhancing, not drawing away from, the main ideas in it. Content, too, was wonderful. By drawing this simple gapfiller, the author has given us a deeper look into the less oft-seen character of Halbarad, his death made all the more poignant with the perfect ending lines, gently drawn our attention to this one connection between Arwen and Halbarad - a lovely moment. And, perhaps the deepest meaning to this piece lies in opening our eyes to the tragedy of Halbarad's death, just one in the many lives lost in the War, but still - a person, a friend, a loyal servant, one willing to carry his King's banner to the uttermost end. I am sure a good number of us have never thought much on him before, but this... these drabbles have managed to make me cry for a character I hardly noticed before now, a notable feat, not to mention done in only 200 words!

Reviewed by: Elfique  ✧  Score: 6

Like another reviewer, one of the main things this incredibly crafted drabble series did was to alert me to the utter poignancy of Halbarad's death and his long standing devotion to Aragorn as a leader, and companion. To open up a whole new school of thought for me in 200 words is quite a feat in itself. But that is not where praise for these drabbles should end at all! As it should be with drabbles, every word delivers meaning and shapes the scene. Such a deep sense of each characters feelings were conveyed to me in such a short space with some great lines. The best part (and worst in terms of emotion) was the last line: it completely dispelled the aura of fear and tension with a resounding sobriety which was a real shock to my system. Very well done.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 6

Two really gorgeous drabbles here. Rivergift has a skill common to successful drabblers - that of compressing pages of emotion and mood into a hundred words. [To Death and Beyond] is redolent of the pathos of Halbarad's fate, his dignified acceptance of it making his eventual death all the more tragic. The brief connection between Halbarad and Arwen is a lovely moment too. But I think I love the second drabble, [Ending], even more; there's so much in it; the ending of one of the very rare Elf/Dwarf friendships, the end of the only Dwarf ever to journey to Valinor. The relationship of Gimli and Legolas, even at the very last, seems quite real, two old friends and comrades, one of whom is dying and one of whom will outlive the other by Ages... Beautifully and elegantly written.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 5

I have always had a soft spot for Halbarad and his death is the one that grieves me the most in "Lord of the Rings." I always wish Tolkien had told us more about him, but we know that Arwen entrusts her banner to his keeping, Aragorn is truly delighted to see him ,and although Halbarad forsees his own death, he still willingly follows Aragorn. This beautiful double drabble captures the moment in which Arwen entrusts the banner to Halbarad perfectly and we catch a touching glimpse of their shared love and loyalty to Aragorn. I was delighted that a friend brought this esquisite gem to my attention and hope we will see more from this very talented writer in the future.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 5

Unfortunately, those who have borne the banners of kings have ever tended to draw enemy fire and attacks, as the standards themselves tend to make tempting targets, and they can hamper the ability of their bearers to properly defend themselves. To agree to be the standard bearer demonstrates a degree of selflessness that is remarkable. So it is in these paired drabbles depicting Halbarad’s agreement to bring the gift of Arwen Undomiel to the one she’d pledged herself to. Moving and poignant. And I can also recommend the other ficlets in the same collection.

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 5

This lovely drabble pair depicts the encounter in which Arwen charges Halbarad with Aragorn's banner. The words they exchange are brief, but the moment itself is weighty, frought with Halbarad's urgency, Arwen's sadness, mutual fear, and mutual love. While Halbarad's prescient words find a devastating coda in the final two-word sentence, what I really like is that instant in which the distinction between ancient Elven lady and mortal Man is effectively erased, not by romantic inclinations (as if the drabble had been about Arwen and Aragorn or some other famous couple), but by their feelings for another: [ immortal eyes he catches a glimpse of very mortal fear, and perhaps the two of them are not quite so different after all.] Nicely done.

Reviewed by: Elleth  ✧  Score: 4

The author uses lovely, poetic diction, and the eerie feeling that is evoked by both the repeated mention of fear and love that connects Arwen and Halbarad to Aragorn sets a fantastic tone for both drabbles that deepens understanding of both characters and connects with the reader immediately. The lead-up to Halbarad's death and the pledge surrounding it appear effortless and fit right into the thematic scope of this double-drabble. Very beautifully done, I enjoyed the emphasis on two very different kinds of loyalty especially.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 4

I loved how Halbarad and Arwen, two characters with little in common, are brought together by the intense love each feels for Aragorn. I also applaud that neither of them made a big speech about their feelings--Arwen simply asked Halbarad to carry the standard she made for Aragorn to him, and just as simply and succinctly, Halbarad promises to do so. He is a man of few words because he does not need very many; his promise is enough. Very moving and impressive for a double drabble.

Reviewed by: Kara's Aunty  ✧  Score: 4

Holy buckets, I almost teared up when reading this. A poignant interlude between Halbarad and Arwen (not romantic, of course!), characters who rarely share the same screen time. Halbarad is so ruddy noble that I could scream for the unfairness of it all - he should have lived! And the last ten words of this masterful little double-drabble are what really give it its power, especially given Halbarad's ultimate fate. Great work!

Reviewed by: obsidianj  ✧  Score: 3

These two drabbles give poignancy to a pivotal point in Arwen's journey to mortality. Halbarad is the perfect observer, totally devoted to his chieftain, not quite sure of his chieftain's choice of a bride, and Arwen wins him over in one moment.

Reviewed by: Nieriel Raina  ✧  Score: 3

What a lovely pair of drabbles. I've never considered how Halbarad got the banner Arwen made for Aragorn, but this presents it very nicely! I love the emotion of both characters and how they are so well portrayed in so few words. Well done!

Reviewed by: cairistiona  ✧  Score: 3

Ah, such a poignant moment so well told! I've often tried to imagine the meeting between Halbarad and Arwen on the eve of the Grey Company leaving to join Aragorn, but I can't imagine capturing it with the beauty that this drabble holds.

Reviewed by: Tanaqui  ✧  Score: 3

An interesting exploration of Halbarad's sense of service and loyalty to Aragorn, encapsulated in his feelings about carrying Arwen's banner on the Ride of the Grey Company. An unusual moment, well-captured.

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 2

This pair of drabbles has a wonderful, lyrical quality to it. I very much enjoyed this look at Halbarad and Arwen.

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 2

Really beautiful, poignant drabble series, portraying Halbarad and Arwen - their fears and their love for Aragorn. wonderfully done.