My Favorite Aragorn Stories
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Haven of Rivendell, The: 3. Dreams and Pledges
In the orchards of Rivendell, Gilraen watched her son gathering late summer fruit with Elladan. The boy, with faultless aim, had just pelted the elf-lord with an apple and he in turn swung her son, squealing into the air. She could tell it was the younger and less stern of the twins by the grayness of his eye and the elusive auburn in his black hair when the sun caught it just so. He was the one who laughed, told stories, sang, and had been her husband's best friend. Elrohir's eyes were grey-black, the color of storm clouds, and his hair was midnight. He was grim and quiet with an air of danger, but just as caring and gentle with her son. The pair had appointed themselves the boy's protectors and never left his side unless he was asleep, cuddled in the safe confines of his bed in Elrond's house.
The waning summer sun warmed her back. She turned her attention from the fruit gatherers to the tapestry piece she was embroidering, autumn leaves trailing down a long belt: an accessory for a russet gown she had recently completed for the harvest festival. Since coming to Rivendell four years before, Gilraen had changed. She was no longer the sparkling, bold woman who had caught the Chieftain's eye. Now she dressed now in the faded shades of late fall. Her golden hair even seemed to have dulled to fawn. Grave is how Elrond described her. Perhaps it's because my spirit has gone to the grave with my husband, she thought.
At first, Gilraen had not wanted the marriage with Arathorn and argued long with her parents. It was not, as some believed, that she had not loved him when first they had met at the summer gathering at Annúminas, but because she did not wish to leave her home in the peacefulness of the Angle. He was so much older and so grim. She would have chosen one of the laughing young men whom she hunted with, when it came her time to wed, one she could control. Arathorn, though, had proved unstoppable in his suit and she had adored him in their short time together. The tears on his cheeks the day she had presented him with a son had bonded him to her forever. She relived their shared wonder at the proclamation of her mother Ivorwen that this baby was the king that has come again.
For a short time, life was wonderful for the young wife, even the rough life of the Dúnedain at Fornost. Then, two years later, her husband was dead, and now she felt old, as old as the stone buildings around her, and as suspended in time as they appeared to be.
Gilraen leaned back, shutting her eyes so the dappled light through the trees spun patterns on her lids. Colors exploded, swirling in gold and red, and suddenly she saw It: the thing that dueled with forest orcs for time in her nightmares, a fiery eye, searching, searching for her son. Behind her translucent lids, she saw him, a man grown, walking under golden flowered trees with the radiant dark elf-maiden she knew was Elrond's daughter; she saw him on horseback clad for war outside a towering white city; she saw him in chains, knelt before the Dark Lord, bruised and broken. As always, she knew these were things that might be. As always, she knew they were only dreams, wisps of the future, but as always a horrible panting panic filled her. She tried to warn him, tried to tell him about the eye. But he never seemed to hear her no matter how loudly she called his name.
"Mother!" Her embroidery had fallen from nerveless hands and her six-year-old son stood impatiently before her, holding it. Elladan stood a few paces behind, a worried look in his eyes.
"I'm alright," she assured the elf lord. "Thank you, Estel." She rested her hand on her son's thin shoulder.
"Who's Aragorn?" Estel asked, head cocked, eyes half-closed in concentration. Even Elladan was startled.
"No one. Why?" She ran her hand through her son's tangled, dark hair.
"You were calling out that name." Soundlessly, she shook her head. Estel looked at her curiously a moment and then announced they were ready to leave. He trundled ahead with the apple basket and she leaned a little heavier on Elladan's arm than was her wont as they made their way from the orchard to the house.
A month later, the air held a crispness that heralded the coming winter. Rivendell's folk busily dug, picked, and dried, storing the year's harvest to guard against winter hunger. On this day, Gilraen strode in the Lord of Imladris' private sanctuary. Elrond looked up startled that anyone would enter his study unannounced when he was closeted with a visitor. Seeing who it was, he smiled. Lady Gilraen was welcomed anytime but seldom visited the elf-lord. Elrond wished he could hit upon something to make life more bearable for Arathorn's widow. Painfully, she reminded him of Celebrian, after the orc attack, distracted by shadows he could never see. She smiled at his guest.
"Mithrandir. I did not know you were here." The smile almost seemed to kindle Gilraen's eyes when she turned to the wizard.
"Lady. I hope this fine autumn day finds you well." Under his bushy brows, Gandalf's eyes seemed to take in all and know that all was not well with her.
"Lord Elrond, I must speak to you. It is of extreme importance and I must speak now." Gandalf rose to leave but she said: "Stay please, Mithrandir, your wisdom is always a comfort." Her commanding words held a strength that surprised both of them and the lord of Imladris cocked a brow over her head at his friend. He ushered Gilraen to a seat and she began, queenly and composed.
"You must help my son. You both must help my son." She turned eyes, moments before so dull, now burning with a fire, now filled with hope and light, on the pair.
"As with all the heirs of Isildur, I will shelter and train him. When he is old enough, he will be sent off to be chieftain of his people," Elrond offered.
"No! That is not his fate! He will not go north to spend his days hunting orcs and trying to defend his scattered people as our world spins down and at last winks out. Aragorn was born to greatness." She declared, gaze leveled at Elrond.
"Now, lady…" he began, a worried looked passed between him and Gandalf.
"No! Hear me." She drew herself up even more regally. "I have had a dream. I, too, am of the line of Elendil. I see things also, my lord." And he knew of what she spoke.
"I have seen the great Evil coming. I have seen my son a man grown. Without him, this evil cannot be defeated. He is a piece in the puzzle. He must be there to bring elf and men and others together."
Elrond was silent for a long time. "I, too, have seen this, Gilraen, but it must be his choice."
"This I know and he will make the right choice, but pledge to me, Elrond, and you also, Mithrandir, to help my son..." She rose and walked to the open end of the room and looked out across the hillsides west, seeing farther than even the sharpest-eyed elf. "…for his path will be long and the journey one to test the mettle of the most worthy." She turned back to the two. "He will need wise guidance. He will need strong friends."
"He will have my help, lady, and all the blessing of the Eldar." Elrond stood before her, taking her hand again. She saw him not as the wise lore master but as Gil-galad's second, a warrior who had faced down the Dark Lord in the past, and took comfort in his strength.
"And, he will have mine also. All that I know I will use to aid him," said Gandalf, "and he shall be the light of the West and a great leader of men." The wizard seemed to increase in stature and light blazed from him. Gilraen staggered, feeling the great power that swept through the room, and she would have fallen but for Elrond's strong arm.
"Thank you," she murmured, too tired suddenly to speak more, once again the sad and solemn widow from the north.
"Lady, you are not well. Come, I will help you to your room," Lord Elrond encouraged. She lifted her head and straightened her shoulders, standing tall, an ember of the fire re-ignited in her eyes.
"You are wrong, my lord." Her smile was dazzling. "I am very well. Better than I have been in years."
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