To Labor and To Wait

Author: Aliana

Nominator: Marta

2005 Award Category: Races/Places: Gondor: Houses of Healing - Second Place

Story Type: Vignette  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: G  ✧  Reason for Rating: n/a

Summary: "Prepare, they tell us. Settle your accounts and your affairs: It would seem we go to war as if going to our graves." Five snapshots from the perspectives of various workers in the Houses of Healing, just prior to the Siege of Minas Tirith. A sidebar to a longer work in progress, but stands on its own.

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Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 10

A set of exquisitely written sketches to go with Aliana's other fic, "Fallen". Each of the characters achieves a lyrical solidity in a very short space, and a distinct voice in his or her namelessness. We don't need their names, although we recognize at least one of the characters of that larger story: we take our turn as each of these men and women who, seemingly reduced to their function (Messenger, Surgeon, Herbalist, Guardsman, Healer), resist that reduction and open up briefly as personalities struggling to find a purchase against fear and despair and the machinery of war that tries to efface all such personality with either death or a kind of enslavement to circumstance. The surgeon's reflective nature comes through, as does his somewhat wry acknowledgment that though he might not have chosen his craft originally and bore a certain anger towards his father for apprenticing him to it, he's too weary to hold a grudge. The healer's recognition that she can't be terrified at every moment because the body just doesn't allow for that, and will always find small things and tedium to break the sharpness of fear is wonderfully put. The messenger lad's transformation from a boy to something more than that in the ending of his innocent play is well turned—I particularly loved the final line in that segment. And the description of the blindness of the herbalist is beautifully done, effectively putting us in a darkened world that doesn't fear darkness so much as emptiness and the destruction of form. As they speak, we sometimes recognize a character in the larger story: the surgeon and the healer acquire names, which gives those of us following "Fallen" a certain thrill, as we get a glimpse into the closed interiors of these characters. But these pieces stand alone, and I would recommend them to anyone with an appreciation for a well-turned phrase or an interest in any aspect of Minas Tirith. Bravo, Aliana!

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 6

I love pieces centring around original characters because they provide such a novel glimpse into Middle-earth. There's only so much you can do with canon characters, and OCs often provide a more blue-collar perspective. This piece offered many characters that seemed very suited to their positions, and you captured them all so nicely. The story of the herbist especially touched me, because you did such a fantastic job of capturing what it would be like to be deprived of your sight, but they were all very good. Reading this story is what led me to "Fallen", and I never regretted taking the time to read either of these pieces.

Reviewed by: annmarwalk  ✧  Score: 4

A companion piece to the exquisite “Fallen”, this tale provides tiny, perfect cameo-like portraits of some of those who await their doom at the Houses of Healing. Each character is perfectly realized, providing the barest hints of lovely and well constructed histories (which I sincerely hope Aliana will write for us, one day). I’m continually awed by the beauty and delicacy of Aliana’s wordsmithy, and look forward to great things from this gifted young artist.

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger  ✧  Score: 4

This was a very interesting series of vignettes showcasing different people, and I enjoyed seeing how they prepared for the task ahead in different ways. From the very old to the very young, they sensed what was coming. Sense was also an interesting part of these vignettes, because so many aspects of sense were utilized. Smell, sound, sight, and touch were all present in one form or another, and by using such a variety, this became a very complete picture.

Reviewed by: Nancy Brooke  ✧  Score: 3

This is an excellent story, the more so for taking the same moment and giving it five separate voices, five different hopes and fears. I particularly liked how the City itself was often characterized - with its smells, quiet and the walls holding their breath.

Reviewed by: nerwen_calaelen  ✧  Score: 3

A verygood set of characterisations. I liek the way you show the roles and characters of each person in this piece. Your fillign in of the details of life in Gondor as the war draws closer is very compelling and convining. You manage to make itall seem real without losing the distinctive feel of Middle Earth.