My Favorite Aragorn Stories
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Haven of Rivendell, The: 2. Flight to Sanctuary
The year was ever turning in its circle and spring had come again to Rivendell. Buds opened like white and pink gifts from the Valar on the orchard trees. The woods gurgled with melting, awakening to new life. Arwen Undomiel had seen three new born fawns on her morning walk Several of her favorite mares had already dropped fine, long-legged colts. The spring had come and she was leaving.
In the stable yard, the last straps of the packhorses were tightened. In her apartments, Arwen pulled on her leather gloves and slid her long Elven sword into its sheath at her side. She had delayed as long as she could; they were not coming. The High Pass was open with the spring melt, and at her father's encouragement, she was departing for Lothlorien for a stay with Galadriel and Celeborn, her grandparents. As much as she looked forward to seeing them and to delighting in the peace of the Golden Wood, she dreaded leaving her father alone. It would be many seasons before she came home to Imladris and before her departure, she had hoped to wish her brothers well and encourage them to spend time at home. She worried for her father; in her estimate, he lacked companionship and she would rather the twins be home with him than hunting in some northern lands. The two riding with the Dúnedain were overdue, but Elrohir and Elladan, warriors both, lost track of time when hunting orc in the North. She shook her head at their folly and pulled the hood of her cloak over her dark braids.
Suddenly, from the main track into the valley came a hail to the guards, an answering call from the gate, and three horses thundered into the stable yard. It was Elladan and Elrohir! Arwen stepped out onto the balcony and came down the outside stairs. She felt a tremor of fear and foreboding even before she saw their drawn faces and lathered horses. They had ridden far, pushing themselves and their beasts too hard just to say farewell to their sister.
The rider on the third horse was a woman though she was dressed in ranger green and booted, spurred, and as well armed as Arwen's brothers were. In front of her on the saddle, she carried a bag,--no, a child, a toddler. Elrohir dismounted and lifted the baby down. His large grey eyes took in the wonders around him. The woman swung down on her own. She was one of the Dúnedain, and highborn by her regal look. Elladan handed all three horses' reins to a stableman and quickly embraced his sister. She felt deep pain and fear from him and searched his face. There was stark grief in his eyes.
"I was just to set off," she said, "but can I help?"
"Can you help Gilraen to a room? She needs food and rest." Between her brothers, the woman, tall and fair-haired, stood straight but weariness and something else, perhaps grief, were etched around her eyes.
"Come, please." Arwen pointed to the house, taking her arm. Arwen sensed the same pain from her as she had from Elladan, but Gilraen's was raw, ragged, and for a moment, Arwen felt overcome by the crushing hurt. The woman staggered slightly and her eyes went to the boy. His arms wound around Elladan's neck; he seemed content in her brother's arms.
"I'll bring him along soon," Elladan said gently in answer to her silent question. Not speaking, Gilraen followed Arwen up to comfortable guest rooms. Arwen called for servants to bring hot water, food, and wine, and, eyeing the woman's shape and height, sent Artha rummaging in a trunk in her own rooms for several gowns and other necessaries. Silently thanked by Gilraen with a slight smile, Arwen left her in Artha's capable hands, and went off to hear the details of this tragic riddle.
In her father's study, her brothers sprawled in chairs before the open shutters. Both looked exhausted, an unusual state for the two hard-riding Elvish warriors. The dark-haired child was asleep in Elladan's lap. Elrond had sent for refreshments and his sons were just beginning their tale as Arwen entered. She poured the wine, handed Elrohir a cup and sat in her father's vacant chair. He paced the room, arms locked behind his back, questioning his sons.
"So, Arathorn was killed in an orc attack?" Elrond was asking.
"Yes. The arrow took him through the eye. He died as he fell from his horse." Arwen could hear the naked pain in Elrohir's voice. Both brothers had been close to the Dúnedain chieftain. As a boy, Arathorn had studied here at Rivendell for a few short years and he had formed fast friendships with the twins, who lately seemed to spend much of their time in Fornost.
"Halbarad did not feel it was safe to leave the boy and Gilraen in the North any longer. Times are dangerous. Arathorn's location was well known to the enemy and the child is the last of Islidur's line."
"With him all hope dies," Elladan interrupted. He stroked the curly head resting on his shoulder. Arwen found it unsettling to see her warrior brother playing nursemaid to a babe.
"The Dúnedain made it appear as if an orc attack on the stronghold had burned the house and killed or carried off Gilraen and the child. No one save they and we know where they have gone," continued Elladan.
So, her father would be sheltering another of Isildur's heirs. Arwen swung her leg impatiently. Since the war with the Witch King and the Fall of Arnor, the eldest male children, fair-eyed and dark haired, had drifted through Rivendell, learning smatterings of swordsmanship, healing lore, and legend, then returned North to be chieftains of the last of the Numenorean warriors in Middle Earth. Most of the free peoples saw them as no more than isolated Rangers, subsisting on the frontiers of Eregion, little more than a scattered tribe of woodsmen. With every generation, Arwen felt, the line seemed to get weaker and farther from the kings of old. But, the last, Arathorn, had been a throwback to his distant ancestors, a born leader but a man more interested in warfare than the learned arts, and more than passing arrogant. Father said he bore fair resemblance to Isildur himself. Elrohir rose from his chair and collected a bundle from near the door. He placed it in his father's arms.
"Barahir, and the rest?" Elrond asked, already knowing.
"I took the ring from Arathorn's hand myself before the burial," the grieving Elladan flatly stated, remembering. Arwen could see the scene through her brother's eyes: a black forest night, torches flaring in the hands of tall, hollow eyed rangers, and an open grave. She shook her head to clear the unsettling picture. The child slept on, one grimy hand snarled in Elladan's braids.
"You both did what needed to be done. Gilraen and the child have the protection of Imladris." Elrond stopped pacing and laid his hand on the sleeping child's dark curls. "We must protect this one well."
"Father, should I delay starting? Do you need me here?" Arwen always avoided the Dúnedain fosterlings as best she could. She had strong opinions about the time wasted by the males of her family in their obsession involving this line of Men, their distant kin, but this one was only a babe and Arwen Undomiel was kind to all young things.
"No, you have already delayed too long," Elrond pressed a kiss to her temple. "But ask Glorfindel to send additional guards with you." The road from Imladris that Arwen took was generally safe, but this sudden danger reminded him of Celebrian. Arwen wanted to cause her father no more such pain so she nodded her agreement. Arwen kissed her brothers and went out.
Soon the cavalcade, now doubled in size, moved out. Glorfindel himself rode at Arwen's side, feeling a sudden great need to visit Celeborn. The fair warrior, armed to the teeth, led a contingent of his deadly Imladris archers. He gallantly claimed he simply desired a pleasant two-week journey next to the fair Evenstar, but Arwen knew it was her father's anxiety that sent his friend on such a trek.
As she rode, Arwen mused over her father's latest fosterling. She knew the tale well, knew her father blamed himself for the disaster after the last battle with Sauron, felt he should have been able to convince Isildur to cast the Ring of Power into the fires. Now, in the Third Age, the Shadow was again growing. Arwen could feel its evil coolness expanding from the South. Her father had dedicated himself to maintaining Isildur's line until the King came again, and sometimes she begrudged these men the strain she saw in her father's face.
This boy was so very, very young and men were so very frail. In the coming days, he could be the hope of us all. Estel: there is nothing that was more needed in Middle Earth. Arwen kneed her horse to a canter, following the track south and east toward the sheltered groves of Lothlorien.
* * * * * * *
The toddler played with wooden horses on the study carpet, talking to the animals in coos that were half-Elvish and half-created squeals. He noticed Elrond watching him and looked up with luminous grey eyes.
"Ad--?" he queried holding out one of his toys. Seeing he could not entice his new friend to roll on the floor with him, the baby returned to his horses.
At his desk, Elrond returned to the ink and paper. He was replying to his old friend who was scouting in the north. One of his sons waited downstairs now impatiently for the reply, pacing the long gallery. Gandalf's note, seal broken and smoothed flat on the desk, was terse:
Still they search. Keep him secret; keep him safe. This one has greater need to be hidden than any in the past. Sauron can end the threat of the king's return with the death of this one babe. If the line dies, he has taken our only hope from us.
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