My Favorite Aragorn Stories
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Haven of Rivendell, The: 9. Renewal
Late in the sleepless night, Estel wandered into the main gallery of Elrond's house, like a spirit haunting the silent hall. There stood the gray statue of Elendil; Narsil lay in the stone cloak across its arms, shards like liquid metal in the candle light. He touched the slivers reverently. Daring to do what he had never done, Estel hefted the hilt and lifted it, nearly in mimic of the mural behind him. The broken blade was uncomfortably light and he carefully placed it back on its altar, doing reverence with a touch to his forehead then his lips. He turned to the painting and traced the sword, whole and unbroken, with a fingertip. The tiniest details of the defeat of Sauron he knew so well, had studied the strategy as a boy, dreamed he was a warrior in that battle: the page of Elrond. He had had the audacity to imagine how he would, unlike Isildur, take the Ring from Sauron's burning hand, climb to the crevices of Orodruin and throw it away, ending evilness forever. In a ten year old's mind, there was never the choice Isildur made, never an inkling of not fulfilling the task. He always emerged Estel: the hero of the Age who had saved the world from Sauron. It was never real then...it was very real now.
This was his destiny. The Ring of Power had vanished but Sauron gained in strength every day. Thirty-nine generations of brave men hadn't faced the Dark Lord. He, of all of them, was expected to stand up to Sauron. He couldn't do this; he would die! He felt as if he were already dead, a bloodless thing from the brittle, yellow pages of a history book, a barrow-wight brooding over the tombs, a bane to the still-living.
Elrond came upon him there. Estel tried to brush past him but his father caught his arm. The young man swung back and circled like a cornered panther. His anger had turned to coldness and he began before Elrond could speak.
"Why was I treated as unworthy?"
"What do you mean?" Elrond was truly shocked; this angry, icy creature before him he did not recognize.
"As a boy, I thought you were ashamed of me, hiding me away from all, treated with less respect, less dignity, than the lowest of stable lads."
"You are wrong! You have been cherished and protected by all here."
"I've spent the last eighteen years meaninglessly trying to make my father proud of me." Estel leveled his gaze at him. "But you knew that, didn't you? Why did you let me believe that?"
"Estel, I loved you as my son…"
"You used those feelings and twisted my behavior—my loyalty—my love for you, my father, so I would be that which you need for your king."
"That is a dastardly accusation! I would not so use your emotions!" Elrond was angry now, perhaps because Estel's words held some grain of truth. He had raised him as his son, unconsciously perhaps even desired one so pure of spirit to be his son. "You are my son!"
"But you are not my father." Estel's voice was flat, his eyes icy. "I cannot stay here." He fled from the gallery, leaving Elrond standing before the mural of the past, at a loss to cure the pain in Estel's heart.
Back in his room, Estel gathered what he needed. His hunting pack was full and he took it down from the peg next to where Nighthunter in its scabbard hung. Forsaking that well-used blade, he picked up the utilitarian sword that had become his yesterday. He lifted it and tested the balance; it was a good blade, his father's sword. The grip felt right as he whirled it overhead and set it back in the scabbard. Lashing it to his pack, and gathering up his cloak and knives, he went through the balcony doors and climbed swiftly to the ground.
Estel, fueled by anger and pain, unsure of his final destination, strode across the courtyard, down through the gardens, and into the orchards, his feet quickly finding the climbing path that led up to the waterfall and over the top of the cliffs. He would not take Swallow; his horse was Lord Elrond's property. He would walk.
Swinging along at nearly a run, his breath panting vapors in the air, he soon reached the lip of the valley and his paced slowed: he had no place to go. Then he recognized it was not far to the rocky ruins. Much as other ruins scattered all through Rhudaur, these were remnants of holdings of long ago. Their lords once had been known and prosperous. Ice and water had turned the walls to crumbling heaps of stone, but the place offered shelter from the wind. That was the extent of what he could now expect from the world, Estel decided.
As he entered a ruined courtyard, the boy realized the physical and emotional exertions of the last day had taken his strength. Settling against a roofless wall, he built a small fire for warmth from the brisk north wind. The night was icy; the stars glittered overhead. Estel took out his whetstone and began to hone the blade that had been his father's. And, Estel thought.
Elrond told often him he was prescient, from a long line of seers. At least that had not been a lie. He should trust his feelings and examine his dreams. His reoccurring dreams that haunted his nights since he was a small child had been a curse to him: dark towers and fire, flight from something evil he could not escape…all bad except for the one, and at first, it seemed worst of all. In it, he was standing in a treeless, barren land, a land of swamp and bog where a great battle had happened long ago. Suddenly, the earth he had been standing on gave way and he was in the water, drowning. Then, a hand reached out and grasped his. It belonged to a maiden whose dark hair veiled her face. As she was turning towards him, he always awoke filled with utter delight and anticipation. It was the only one of his dreams he did not awakened from with his own screams echoing in his ears.
Estel watched the sun rising, his elbows on his crossed legs. Day wore on. He drank cool water from his flask and thought and thought some more. He felt the blood coursing through his veins; he was a young man with goals, dreams, and desires. Must he give them up? He had once sworn that he would protect that which he loved from dragons and trolls…dragons and trolls and the dark lord Sauron? He had always wanted to do something terribly wonderful…save the free peoples of Middle Earth? He saw himself in the gallery mural, sword raised, perhaps on a dark charger…but instead of failing as Isildur had, he could succeed! He saw his sword flash and the dark lord's head topple. Truly bold conceit for an untried youth! Estel smiled. Aragorn, he tried the name and it seemed to roll nicely off his tongue: Aragorn, son of Arathorn, the heir of Elendil.
As the spring sun was lowering behind the ruins at his back, Estel rose and stretched. If this was his destiny, if he was to be king and face the Dark Lord in some final battle, so be it! He was content with his decision, very hungry and ready to face his fate. He would have to find a way to make amends to Elrond for his anger. He stamped out the fire and swung back down the path to Rivendell.
Coming out of the woodland trail at the bottom of the meadow just as day was fading, Estel waved at the invisible guards that watched all the ways into the valley and wondered what they had thought of him wildly striding up the path last night. His natural high spirits had returned and he had been humming snatches of songs. And, as he crossed the orchard, in the cool breeze and golden sunset, he began singing aloud the refrain from his very favorite, The Lay of Luthien. His eyes were on the ground dazzled by the purple and blue, gold and white flowers that sprang up between the fruit trees.
Estel looked up into the most startlingly beautiful grey eyes he had ever seen. He could do nothing but finish the song aloud.
"Beneath the Moon, beneath the Sun,
More fair than mortal tongue could tell."
For a moment, his heart stopped and he truly believed that with all the wondrous stuff that had happened yesterday, he had got some magical powers and conjured Luthien Tinuviel, the most beautiful of elf-maidens, to appear before him.
The elf-maid's blue-black hair was loose and lifted by the wind. Her features were flawless and her blue tunic and grey leggings and boots molded a perfect form. She looked no more than his age. Startled as he, a smile slowly warmed her face.
"Hello," she said. Estel believed she was a dream and did not want her to vanish into the twilight mist. He realized he had stopped breathing.
"Why do you walk in Rivendell's orchards, Luthien Tinuviel?" He finally asked. She laughed and the music danced away on the wind.
"Perhaps I look for Beren," she teased, joining in his allusion and causing a smile to light his face.
"Perhaps you've found him." He held her eyes for a moment, saw the tug of attraction in them, and a light blush stained her cheeks. Awareness dawned, and she seemed to shake herself as if a shiver ran though her and became very regal and cool.
"I walk in my own orchards," she replied, pulling down a blossom-laden branch between them. He caught her hand over the branch.
"Lady, you do not live in Rivendell else I would have noticed your beauty long ago. You are from afar. Your dress says you have traveled long this day." His eyes were drawn to her parted lips.
"An Elvish Ranger to find my secrets out? And who are you to say nay to me?" She asked haughtily, suddenly becoming the grand lady.
"I am Es---"and suddenly it was bounding off his tongue with an arrogance he didn't mean. "Aragorn of Elrond's House, son of Arathorn, Isildur's Heir. The chieftain of the Dúnedain." Pride welled though him for the first time at his announcement of his heritage, but he knew he was bragging a bit to impress this beautiful young elf. He raised her hand to his lips, which was a proper greeting, but at the last moment turned it so his lips pressed against the warm pulse of her wrist, a very forward liberty.
Aragorn saw shocked in her eyes and something else. Then her lips curved in a familiar smile. "Oh, Estel! I remember! Gil—Gilraen came with you that day I left. I'm sorry I missed your growing up. You seem to have done it well despite my brothers." She threw her arms around him in her delight.
He scarce felt her embrace and kiss of greeting; for at that moment, Estel wanted nothing more than to be swallowed up by the ground. He knew who this beautiful woman was: Arwen Undomiel, Elrond's daughter! Blinded by her beauty, he had not seen the amazing likeness in female form to her brothers: the straight nose, full lips curling in a smile, eyebrows that spoke volumes without sound. Estel found he was staring into her smiling eyes, and for his life, couldn't tell for how long. The warm rush from his heart terrified him. He was smitten by the Evenstar, the highest born of the Eldar, granddaughter of Galadriel, ancient and all-knowing! And he had bragged to her about who he was! And flirted indecently!
"You're laughing at me," he whispered, color high in his cheeks.
"No," she whispered too, "I'd never do that, Estel." She reached out and took his hand. "Come home. You need refreshment."
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