My Favorite Aragorn Stories
Playlist Navigation Bar
Water and Stone: 18. Warnings
Gwirith lurched awake, sweating and breathing hard. By the Valar, that was the third time! He looked around him, trying to ignore the images that were still vivid before his eyes. He could see by the grey light that the snow had come again in the night and he listened to the whoosh and crump as mounds of snow slipped down from the branches of the forest trees to the ground. He had hardly slept at all and after the first time the dream had visited him he had tried to stay awake, struggling with the turmoil of emotions that churned through him. But twice more it had engulfed him, and now his body felt numb and heavy, as if he were himself under the snow and it pressed down on him and chilled him to the bone.
So it was with relief that he heard the sound of Luinil stirring in his bed on the over side of the talan. After a while Luinil called his name softly, and a moment later there came the sound of his feet running lightly across the rush strewn floor.
‘Brother, are you awake?’ asked Luinil, looking down on him. Gwirith nodded mutely.
‘Move over then.’ Luinil slid into bed beside him, wrapping his arms and legs round his brother. Immediately Luinil yelped and sat up.
‘Have you been walking on the glaciers of Caradhras?’ he said. ‘How can you have such cold feet?’ Luinil looked at him more closely. ‘What ails you, brother? You are pale.’
‘Be still,’ said Gwirith curtly, dragging him back down into the bed
‘Ai, that hurt,’ grumbled Luinil, but he lay down again, stretching himself out full length against Gwirith and holding him tightly. ‘Will you not tell me?’ he asked.
‘A bad dream?’ Gwirith nodded.
‘Tell me,’ said Luinil again, but was met only by silence. He sighed and moved closer to his brother, and, pushing back a lock of hair that had fallen across Gwirith’s face, began to caress his forehead gently with his fingers.
For a long time Gwirith did not move, but at last he relaxed a little and turned towards Luinil and kissed him on the cheek
‘Gwirith,’ said Luinil suddenly, winding his brother’s hair round his fingers, and his voice shook a little.
‘Mmm,’ said Gwirith.
‘If he chooses you, I won’t hate you.’
Gwirith became very still, then turned so that they were face to face, grey-blue eyes looking into soft brown, but apart from that as nearly like as twins.
‘Luinil, let us not speak of it. You know that day may never come.’
‘But if it does, I will not hate you.’
‘Your heart is kinder than mine, Luinil,’ said Gwirith, burying his face in his brother’s shoulder. ‘I think I would hate you and him also, if you chose each other. At least I would for a time.’
Luinil’s arms tightened around him. ‘It is only now that you are back that I know how lonely I have been without you,’ he said. ‘I would not lose you again for anything, not even for Celinn.’
Gwirith said nothing, and after a while he felt Luinil’s arms loosen their hold and his head become heavier as he relaxed into sleep.
Gwirith lay wide awake again, listening to Luinil breathe, and tears slid silently from his eyes and on to the linen pillowslip as his body and his fea longed for Celinn to be in his arms as Luinil was now. He knew that if Celinn sought him, he would leave Lorien and go to the farthest edge of Arda to be with him, no matter whom he had to leave behind.
Towards the end of the day Gwirith sat at a table in the guardroom workshop, surrounded by the materials for refletching a basketful of broken arrows. In his hands were a long goose feather and a little knife, but the blade had been resting against the shaft of the feather for some minutes, while Gwirith stared sightlessly before him, his work forgotten.
A sound from the main guardroom brought him back to the present, and at first he looked down at his hands as though he had no idea how they came to be holding these objects, but then his face cleared and he began to trim the feather carefully. He worked with concentration and soon there was a small pile of finished arrows on the table beside him. He knew Haldir would come and fetch him, and as always the work of his hands calmed the turmoil in his heart.
At last he reached into the basket and found it empty. He looked with satisfaction at his work, then stretched his arms above his head before getting up to put the arrows into the weapons store, a small room with no windows at the back of the workshop. It was only when he came back into the workshop that he noticed how dark it was: surely dusk had already deepened into night?
Gwirith went into the guardroom. Several guards were seated at the tables and a small group which included Luinil was kindling a fire in the hearth, but there was no sign of Haldir. Gwirith went to his room and knocked quietly on the door. A voice from within called,
‘Come in, Celinn!’
Gwirith went in and closed the door softly behind him. ‘It is not Celinn,’ he said, ‘It is me.’
Haldir looked up in surprise. He was writing something on a piece of yellow parchment with a long white quill. Beside him a candle burned in a bronze holder.
‘Gwirith! I said I would fetch you as soon as he had come off duty.’
‘It is past dusk. Has he not come yet?’ said Gwirith, irritably.
Haldir suddenly sat up very straight in his chair and looked out of the window, then turned back, frowning.
‘I have not seen him yet,’ he said. ‘He promised to report to me after his duty as he always does.’ Their eyes met but both glanced away quickly, unwilling to give substance to their fears by letting another see them.
‘I will go to the gate,’ said Gwirith, already half way out of the door. ‘Stay here in case he comes.’ He stopped and glanced back. ‘If it pleases you, Guardian.’
Haldir nodded, too worried to stand on ceremony. Within minutes Gwirith was back. There was something very controlled about him, as though he was keeping a tight grip on himself.
‘He left his duty early. He told Sirion his leg was aching.’
‘That is not like him,’ said Haldir carefully. In the encroaching dusk Gwirith could not see the expression on his face. ‘I suppose he will have returned to his talan to rest.’
‘He promised to report to you,’ said Gwirith quietly.
‘Maybe the pain put it from his mind,’ said Haldir. For a few moments Gwirith was so still that Haldir saw his profile in the faint light like the pale face of a statue. Then he moved abruptly.
‘I will go and find him,’ he said hoarsely, already opening the door. Haldir stood up, the sound of his chair very loud on the flags.
‘Gwirith,’ he began, but was interrupted by a commotion in the guardroom. The door had burst open suddenly and Aiglin came in, his bare head and dark eyelashes white with snow and his face alight with joy.
‘Gwirith!’ he cried, ‘He came to me!’ Luinil glanced up from his place by the fire and came over to them.
‘Who?’ said Gwirith. ‘Celinn? ’
‘Who else? He came to my talan, a little before dusk.’
‘What news?’ said Haldir, drawing Aiglin down to a bench near the fire. Gwirith pulled up a chair and sat opposite and Luinil leaned on Aiglin’s shoulder.
Aiglin’s eyes were bright. ‘He told me he was sorry he had hurt me and that I was a good brother, and he gave me this.’ He opened his tunic to show them a small pendant in the shape of a star which hung from a thin chain around his neck. ‘It belonged to our mother. Then he held me in his arms. Oh, he is returning to himself at last!’
‘Where is he now?’ said Gwirith, with only a hint of impatience in his tone.
‘He said he did not wish for much company this evening, so we parted.’
Gwirith fell into the same stillness as he had earlier, but this time the firelight fell on him and Haldir saw the willed effort he made to smooth his face into a mask of equanimity.
‘He did not report to me after his duty,’ Haldir said, trying to give him time to compose himself.
‘He told me he had gone to rest because his leg was aching,’ said Aiglin, too elated to sense the slight undercurrent of feeling that was building around him.
‘So why did he walk all the way to your talan, if his leg was paining him?’ said Luinil, artlessly. ‘I would have thought he would have waited until the morrow to see you.’
‘I know not. And I care not!’ cried Aiglin. ‘Now that he has come to me, I am glad he did not wait until the morrow.’
‘Was he limping?’ said Gwirith, quietly.
‘Why, I scarcely noticed!’ said Aiglin. ‘Yes, a little, maybe.’ There was a moment of tension, then Haldir said,
‘Aiglin, tell us how Celinn seemed to you when you saw him.’
Aiglin thought for a moment, then said, ‘He was himself. What am I to say to you? He was waiting for me at my talan. I was wary, thinking he would be cold towards me, as he has been since …since … but he smiled at me and spoke softly. He took the pendant from his own neck and fastened it for me. I told him his hands were very cold and we laughed at that. I suppose he is still not quite well because he was shaking a little even though he wore his cloak. He is not used to the cold yet after being so long within.’
Gwirith looked away suddenly but Haldir rested a hand on his arm without taking his eyes from Aiglin. ‘Go on,’ he said.
‘Then when he had fastened the pendant he held me close to him.’ Tears filled his eyes. ‘I have missed him so much these last weeks, when he would let no one near him except Gwirith.’ His voice hardened a little at these last words.
‘I said I was glad that he had come to me, and that is when he told me I was a good brother and he was sorry. And he gave me a gift for Alfirin too, to make up for his coldness to her, I suppose. Of course it doesn’t matter now that he is himself again. All can be forgotten. Well? What is it? Why do you stare at me so?’
‘Why did he not give Alfirin the gift himself?’ asked Haldir, tightening his grip on Gwirith’s arm.
‘He said it was too late, and that she would be busy with the elflings.’
‘But why not wait until the morrow?’
‘I … I don’t know. He asked me to do it. Why would I refuse him?’
Luinil laid his hand on Aiglin’s arm. ‘It seems a little odd,’ he mused. ‘To leave his duty early and then go walking around the forest in the snow …’
‘Maybe we have become so used to bad news that we cannot believe good tidings when they arrive,’ said Haldir, but catching Gwirith’s glance, he flushed a little and looked away.
‘Something is not right,’ said Gwirith softly.
‘What do you mean?’ asked Aiglin.
‘I don’t know,’ said Gwirith, frowning, ‘but I sense it.’
‘It is because he did not come to you that you doubt my word,’ said Aiglin bitterly, swinging suddenly from joy to anger, ‘you who would let him die if he chooses.’
A shadow of pain crossed Gwirith’s face, and he sprang to his feet and said angrily, ‘Do you think that is what I am doing now, fool? Tell me where he has gone, so that we may seek him and prevent him if he will let us.’
Aiglin’s chair scraped on the flags and fell over as he lunged towards Gwirith, but Haldir held him back.
‘Aiglin, Gwirith, this is not the time,’ he said quietly. Gwirith stood watching him coldly, his lips a thin line. He seemed all at once as disdainful and distant as when he first came to Caras Galadhon.
‘I don’t know where he is,’ said Aiglin savagely, struggling against Haldir. ‘Am I to ask him for an itinerary after he has spoken to me gently for the first time in all these weeks? My brother came back to me. I was glad to see him. That is all.’ Around them a sudden hush had fallen, but Haldir glanced round the room and gradually the buzz of conversation resumed. When he was satisfied that Aiglin had regained his self control, Haldir released him.
‘Let us sit down, and we can talk civilly together,’ he said. Carefully the four elves returned to their previous places and surveyed each other.
‘I don’t understand any of you,’ said Aiglin, flushed and incredulous. ‘Why can you not be happy with me? I am as surprised as you are at this sudden change in him, but am I to start doubting him now? Think you I would have sent him away and told him to return on the morrow?’
‘He means to leave us before the morrow,’ said Gwirith darkly. ‘That is why he gave you the task to do on his behalf. And he shook from something other than the cold.’
‘No, Gwirith, it is not so!’ cried Aiglin. ‘I have seen him and you have not. He is returning to himself again!’
‘It is because you wish it so fervently that you see it when it is not there, Aiglin,’ said Gwirith flatly. ‘Nothing could have restored him so quickly. After what he has suffered, he would heal little by little, not between dusk and moonrise.’
Aiglin covered his face with his hands. When he spoke his muffled voice was heavy with confusion. ‘I have seen him with my own eyes. Why would he come to me, Gwirith? Why would he give me this gift, why would he hold me close to him after so long rejecting me, if he were not beginning to heal? Why was there peace written on his brow?’ Gwirith flinched suddenly. ‘You who did not see his face or look into his eyes, although you long to do so, tell me the answer to my question. Why did he come to me tonight?’ Aiglin removed his hands from his face and looked into Gwirith’s blue-grey eyes.
Gwirith said nothing, but his eyes spoke for him. At first Aiglin’s face showed defiance, then he began to frown a little. Then all at once he was as white as the linen of his shirt.
‘You think he came to say goodbye to me,’ he whispered and staggered to his feet. ‘You think he is going to …’ Luinil caught his arm as he swayed and sat down again.
‘No! I saw him,’ said Aiglin. ‘It cannot be that. You are wrong, Gwirith.’ He swung round to Luinil. ‘Tell him, Luinil. Your brother is always full of melancholy, you told me so yourself.’ A difficult glance passed between the two brothers, but Aiglin ignored it. ‘Tell him, Luinil!’
Luinil came round and kneeling beside him, looked up into his tormented face.
‘Aiglin, if he is wrong, then it does not matter,’ he said gently, taking Aiglin’s hands in his. ‘But if he is right, then we must act at once.’
Aiglin turned away and stared unseeingly into the fire. His lips moved silently. All at once his face changed.
‘He said he was sorry,’ he whispered. ‘I thought he was sorry for what he had done, for how he had hurt me and pushed me away. But … he was telling me he was sorry for…for what he was about to do.’ He stood up abruptly, his eyes wild. ‘Guardian, send out a company, two companies! He cannot be far!’
Haldir said, ‘Peace, Aiglin. We must be calm. Yes, we will act immediately, but we must act rightly. Did he say where he would go after he left you?’
‘Yes, I … no…I don’t remember,’ stammered Aiglin, his eyes wide with dread. ‘To his talan, I think.’
‘Then that is where we will begin,’ said Haldir.
Playlist Navigation Bar