Turn Your Face to the Dawn
1. The Dew on a Sunflower
“Daylight, see the dew on a sunflower
And a rose that is fading
Roses wither away
Like the sunflower I yearn to turn my face to the dawn
I am waiting for the day…”
'Memory,’ from the musical 'Cats.’
It was a sunny day in Rivendell when the woman and her child entered the valley. She did not notice the sun smiling kindly down upon her, however, or the breeze that blew her hair astray and lightly kissed her neck. Her mind was focused on one goal, and one goal alone: finding the Lord Elrond Half-Elven.
She stumbled over the rocks as she walked onward, whispering comforting words to the boy in her arms to keep him from crying. She also held a rolled-up piece of linen, which in turn held various pieces of clothing belonging to her and her child. The woman kept on walking, pressing on, until she suddenly stopped short as the house of Elrond finally came into view. She could hear the water from the numerous waterfalls tumbling over the rocks, and she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. This was the beginning of her new life: she could start over here, and forget about the past, and all the while, watch her boy grow up in peace and harmony.
Opening her eyes after a the few precious moments of mediation she had had in the last three days, Gilraen, the daughter of Dirhael, with her son Aragorn in her arms, set off to find Elrond.
“Arwen!” cried the voice of one of the Elves of Rivendell as he pressed on quickly though the bushes on the ground and the branches that hung from the many trees in the valley. It was a cool morning, but that was welcome relief from the long heat spell that the Elves of Rivendell had been facing. The dew on every strand of grass glistened in the morning sun, which had had only just poked its golden-red face out from behind the mountains. “Undomiel? Where are you?” cried the Elf again.
“I am right here, Antiro,” came the Evenstar’s melodic voice from the middle of a garden of lilies, surrounded by several She stepped out onto the beaten dust path in front of the Rivendell guard. A smile came to her lips as she saw the relieved expression on the Elf’s face. “Why are you so upset? Has something happened? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing that I know of, yet” said Antiro, sounding more breathless than upset. “Lord Elrond requested that I send for you immediately. He sounded urgent.”
The amused expression on Arwen’s face shifted quickly into a look of concern and confusion. “Where is he?”
“In his private chambers, my lady,” responded Antiro, stepping to the side of the narrow pathway so Arwen could pass through first. “I believe you know the way?”
Antiro followed Arwen down the pathway that led out of the forest and into the courtyard which was the center of Rivendell. The many crystal-clear waterfalls scurried over the rocks, the birds sang in the treetops with contentment, and the wind blew peacefully, but Arwen and Antiro the Rivendell guard heard none of it as they sped into the Last Homely House of Elrond, down the corridors, up the stairs, towards Elrond’s bedroom.
The door was shut, which was uncommon for the Lord of Rivendell, who usually kept his door open to welcome anyone who needed to see him. The fact that his door was closed gave Arwen the signal that this was a very grave situation indeed. She was right. The worried Arwen ran the last few paces to her father’s bedroom door burst through, not bothering to knock. Antiro was close behind her.
Arwen’s father, the Lord Elrond of Rivendell, was seated at his desk, facing outward, brow deeply lined in thought, and a look of deep concern on his face. Arwen’s two twin brothers, Elladan and Elrohir, were seated on a small bench, hands folded, heads bowed in silence. Seated on the bed was a woman who was young in the eyes of Arwen, bit in the reckoning of Men, she was not quite so youthful. Her face was one of sorrow, and her hair was messy and uncombed. She held in her arms a tiny child who looked to be only about two or three. He had a mess of black hair on his small head and his eyes resembled the woman’s: piercing blue and round as an orange. His eyes were filled with minuscule tears, as if he had been wailing moments before and his mother had only just managed to calm him down.
The little boy looked up with his round, blue eyes at the two mysterious Elves who had just entered the room. As his gaze fell upon Arwen, their eyes met, and a smile that seemed to big for him grew across the tiny boy’s face. Arwen smiled too, and her heart melted, as it did whenever she saw someone who needed to be loved, for the daughter of Elrond was a compassionate soul, and was always ready to share some of the love and youth that was constantly bubbling up inside her.
A tap on the shoulder from Antiro brought Arwen back to reality. The common Rivendell guard had an uncanny way of always knowing when her mind was wandering, and always knew just how to draw her out of her often complex thoughts. Arwen shook her head to clear her mind and begin to try and focus on the situation that was unfolding in front of her. “Ada,” she began, her voice full of concern, “Father, what is going on? Who is this woman? Why is she here?”
“Ah, iell-nin,” said the Lord Elrond, shifting his gaze from the woman to Arwen. “My daughter, I am honored to have you meet the Lady Gilraen and her son, Aragorn. They have come to Rivendell seeking healing, aide, and comfort, and they shall find all three, and more.”
Elrond paused and looked back at Gilraen, seeming to ask her a question with his always inquisitive eyes. She nodded, and Elrond turned back to his daughter and the Rivendell guard beside her.
“The Lady Gilraen is the widow of the Lord Arathorn,” explained Elrond. “You have heard of him talk of him before, have you not?”
Arwen nodded. “Yes, ada, I have. Was he not the same one who was to go riding with Elladan and Elrohir?” The twins looked up at the mention of their names, and Elladan nodded grimly.
“Yes, the very same,” said the other twin, Elrohir, in his soft voice, “and woe be to every living creature that the Lord Arathorn was slain!”
“He was the Heir of Isildur,” continued Elrond quietly, “the last of the bloodline of the old Kings of Men. Now the only one of the bloodline left is his son, Aragorn.” Elrond motioned softly to the child in the arms of Gilraen. “Tis a terrible fate that befalls this child, it is. The time has come for Isildur’s heir to step out of the shadows of his ancestors and claim the throne of Gondor! If only it were that easy,” finished Elrond, sighing softly. A tear that went unnoticed by anyone else in the room slid down the cheek of Gilraen.
“Gilraen has had a hard life,” said Elrond gently, “and Aragorn has a hard one ahead of him.”
There was a pause.
“What do we do now?” said one of the twins quietly. No one noticed which one it was, and nobody bothered to find out.
“We treat them with the hospitality they deserve,” said Elrond, getting up from his desk and coming over to sit on the bed next to Gilraen. “If the lady will accept it.”
“The lady will,” said Gilraen quietly, the first time Arwen had heard her speak. She had a lovely voice, one that reminded Arwen of her mother, especially in her later days right before she departed from Middle-earth: a voice of caring and compassion and love for all living things, but also a voice of great sorrow. “And the lady will do anything in her power to repay you for your kindness,” finished Gilraen.
“There is no need,” said Elrond. “You, and everyone else in need, is welcome in my home.”
Gilraen, at those words, broke down into tears, either overcome with thankfulness or saddened by the fact that she was considered ‘needy.’ Whichever one it was, Arwen could not tell.
Arwen slowly approached the timid woman, as if afraid she would scare her off. The Evenstar gently kissed the top of Aragorn’s head and took his petite hand in her long, delicate one.
“Would it be okay if I held him?” asked the daughter of Elrond gently.
Gilraen looked up at Elrond’s gracious daughter, with a surprised expression at first, but then nodded. “I think he would like that,” she said softly, a smile breaking through her grief-stricken face like the sun through the clouds after a terrible storm. Arwen was confused by this strange woman, who seemed to be in great sadness over Death, yet, Arwen perceived that this woman held a great deal of hope inside her breaking heart. She hoped she could get to know this woman better during her stay at Rivendell.
Arwen gingerly lifted the young Aragorn into her arms, and he smiled and began to pull her hair, lightly at first, as if testing her, but then harder when he realized that it made her laugh. Apparently the child liked the sound of laughter. Arwen carried the young boy out into the corridor and down the steps to the courtyard, where she put him down and let him run free in the dew covered grass for a while. She was comfortable with letting the young boy run around as he choose -- she knew that no creature or thing in Rivendell would harm him.
“Why is your mother so very sad, Aragorn?” asked Arwen absent-mindedly, knowing perfectly well the boy couldn’t hear nor comprehend a word she was saying. The son of Gilraen was currently running about the clearing, chasing a beautiful blue and yellow butterfly he had found sunbathing on a leaf. “I do not understand,” said Arwen, burying her face in her hands and closing her eyes gently. “I do not understand much of anything, do I, son of Gilraen?” said Arwen, more to herself than to Aragorn, or anyone else. “Your mother grieves for the dead, yet, these Men do understand what a gift Death gives them. If Men could see Death the way Elves do, maybe they would not be so sad when it befalls them or one of their comrades. They would be able to see that, after years of living, one grows tired, and Death is a welcome relief. But, alas” said the Evenstar, a smile on her lips, “Men are not Elves, and Elves are not Men. ‘Tis better that way, I suppose.”
“Who are you tawking do?” said a young, innocent voice which quite startled Arwen. She drew herself out of her thoughts once more to see the giggling face of Aragorn.
“I was talking to no one in particular,” replied Arwen.
“Oh,” said the boy, feeling discouraged by having received an answer he could not understand. “What’s your name?”
“Arwen,” said Arwen, smiling at the small boy’s inquisitiveness.
“Awen,” said Aragorn. “I like it!” he proclaimed, then burst into a fit of giggles. “My name is Awagorn!” he said proudly, then applauded for himself. ‘Awen’ smiled at the child once more. He was so bubbly, full of life, and not full of sorrow like his mother. It almost made her want to cry to think of the future in store for this poor child: a future of heartache and pain and suffering, and most definitely sorrow. But, through all the sorrow, the child that stood giggling in front of her would someday be the hope of the troops in Gondor, when the Shadow regained its strength (which it was sure to do.) He would be the pure white banner flying high in a battlefield of clouds and dusk and hopelessness.
“Estel,” she murmured softly.
“Huh?” said Aragorn.
“Estel,” she said loudly. “It means ‘hope.’ It is what I am going to call you, for you are the hope of the people of Gondor- and for that matter, you will probably be the hope for all the free peoples of Middle-earth, when your time comes. So, in my eyes, ‘Estel’ is your new name.”
“But my name’s Awagorn!” protested the child insistently.
“Alright, come on, then, Awagorn,” said Arwen, laughing. She picked up the boy and proceeded to carry him up the stairs and down the corridors back to Elrond’s chambers.
“Gilraen!” cried Arwen as she sped down the corridor after the woman towards the room which Elrond had given to Gilraen and her child. Arwen was afraid she had terribly upset the woman during dinner that evening. She hadn’t meant too. Oh, if only she could take it back…!
Elrond had invited Gilraen and Aragorn to share a private dinner with him and his sons and daughter that evening. Gilraen had gladly accepted the Lord Elrond’s offer, and, later that evening, she showed up in the small family dining room looking significantly different. She had brushed her dark hair so it was no longer tangled, she had rid her face and hands of the dirt that was on them before. She had donned a shimmering lavender dress and a beautiful glass necklace. The little boy was at her side, holding her hand with his right hand and sucking his thumb with his left.
Gilraen sat down at the end of the long table with the white lace tablecloth, facing the Lord Elrond. On Gilraen’s right sat Elrohir; to her left, Arwen; and next to Elrohir, on the left of Elrond, sat Elladan. On the dark green pillow on the floor, between Gilraen and Arwen, sat Aragorn, now sucking his right thumb.
One of the kitchen Elves quietly slipped into the room, carrying a pitcher of water. She filled each delicate crystal cup to the brim with ice-cold water, than left the room. She reappeared a second later with two medium-sized plates: one of leafy green vegetables, one of fresh ripe fruit. All those present at the table turned to Elrond for the signal to go ahead and eat, and when the Lord of Rivendell picked up an apple and took a small bite, they did so.
After the fruit and vegetables were brought out, the Elf came back with the main course: venison. It looked and smelled delicious, but Arwen wasn’t particularly hungry, so she only took a small piece. It would have been rude not to take any.
The dinner was uneventful, especially for Arwen, since she cared little for the great battles and political affairs that her father and Gilraen and her brothers spoke of. She knew enough to understand what they were talking about, of course: Elrond would have no less than for his daughter to be up-to-date with the current dealings in Middle-earth, but that didn’t mean Arwen was interested in them. In fact, she was completely bored with them, but she wouldn’t come out and say it or dare try to change to subject. That would have been rude, at least, in Arwen’s eyes (and most likely Elrond’s as well.) So the daughter of Elrond amused herself by amusing Aragorn.
Aragorn didn’t seem to mind being fed some delicious applesauce made by Arwen herself, but he apparently wasn’t interested in learning how to play a simple hand-game. She finally gave up with a sigh, a giggle, and a murmur of “Oh, Estel, you’re hopeless.”
It suddenly got quiet around the dining room table. “Arwen,” said Elrond slowly, “what did you just call that boy?”
“I called him ‘Estel,’” said Arwen, just as slowly, but a lot more softer than her father. “Hope.”
“Why?” asked Elrond. He did not sound angry: he just sounded confused. Gilraen looked confused as well.
“Because he’s hope, isn’t he?” said Arwen. “He’s the hope of the race of Men, and maybe even the hope of all Middle-earth? Should it not be proper to call him as such?”
“It was just unexpected, that is all,” said Elrohir.
“He is right,” said Elrond. “It was unexpected, but a good thought, Arwen. And maybe even a better thought than you originally intended.”
“What do you mean, my Lord Elrond?” asked Gilraen.
“What I mean is, Aragorn is going to be pursued by many,” said Elrond, “starting as soon as anyone finds out where he is. I have been thinking that maybe it would be good if we could find an appropriate name for Aragorn to grow up as, that way, he would be safe from any enemies and he will not have to learn about his heritage, and enormous responsibilities, until he is ready.”
Gilraen did not speak.
“Please be open-minded about this,” said Elrond, as if he was reading the woman’s thoughts. “I know it may seem ridiculous to you now, but think about it long and hard, and you will see it makes sense.”
Gilraen did not move.
“Gilraen, I understand what you feel,” said the Half-Elven gently. “It will be a big adjustment, but I think, in the end, it will be for the better. You must trust me.”
Gilraen did not blink.
“Gilraen,” said Arwen softly, touching the woman on the arm. “Are you well? I know you do not feel comfortable with changing Aragorn’s name, if he was my son, I probably wouldn’t either, but, you must understand, he is to young, he is not ready to learn about his fathers yet--”
Gilraen turned her head ever so slowly to face Arwen. They stared at each other for what seemed like eternity, and then, suddenly, Gilraen bolted out of the room, tears flowing freely down her face. Arwen turned to face Elrond, a look of great surprise on her face, and then she was gone too, flying gracefully from the room after the woman.
Arwen reached the door of Gilraen’s room and stopped. It was shut. Arwen could have burst in, since the doors in Rivendell bore no locks, but she choose not to. Instead, she gave a polite knock. When there was no response, she knocked a little louder. She could hear sobs coming from inside the room. Arwen sighed, and knocked once more. When there was no response save for the sounds of sputters and sobs, Arwen had half a mind to call out “Gilraen, you are acting like a child,” but the Evenstar no better than to act as such. Instead, she just gently pushed the door open and poked her head inside.
Gilraen was sitting on her bed, still crying, but not quite as much. She held in her hand a worn-out dirty white handkerchief, but she was simply shaking it absentmindedly with her right hand instead of using it to blow her nose or dry her tears. Arwen pushed the door the rest of the way open, and stepped inside the room, closing the door once more behind her.
“Gilraen,” she said softly, not knowing quite how to begin. She was sorry if her words had caused Gilraen to grow upset, but she had not said anything different from what her father said. Why was she the one who caused this woman to flee from the room in tears? Arwen sighed. She would have to find out.
“Gilraen,” said Arwen again, not so softly this time. “I am quite sorry. I was not thinking. My words were unkind.”
“No,” said the woman. “Your words were perfectly just. Do not try to defend me, Arwen, for I am a fool.” She stopped.
Arwen came and sat down next to Gilraen. Her presence seemed to give the mother of Aragorn the will to continue on with her trail of thoughts. “I, of course, want my baby to be safe,” she said timidly. “Giving him a different name to go by while he is here, I must admit, is a brilliant way to do so. But…” she paused, and Arwen put her arm around her to discover that she was shaking violently. “But,” Gilraen continued, “Aragorn is all I have left,” she said, a new batch of tears streaming down her face. “Arathorn named him,” she said, smiling, and looking up into Arwen’s eyes. “Aragorn is the only thing I have left to remind me of him,” said Gilraen. “Where will I be if you take away my Aragorn?”
Arwen smiled, finally understanding. “Ah, but Gilraen, you will not lose your Aragorn,” she said. “In fact, you will not only keep your son, but you gain something even better.”
“And what is that?” said Gilraen, mimicking Arwen’s small smile.
Arwen’s smile grew larger as she said one simple word that caused both her and Gilraen to let go a new batch of tears that were springing up in their eyes as they spoke.
And then the tears came freely, and they were not only tears of sadness, but tears of joy, and tears of hope. The two women cried together for what seemed like hours, and when they finally emerged from Gilraen’s room, there was dew on the sunflowers, and a new day had begun.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.