1. Forgotten Memories
What do you remember? You remember your mother’s arms and comforting warmth and someone strong who rocked you both. You remember ember-fall and dawn-break and candles burning down. You remember an argument.
What do you remember, Aragorn, heir of the Dunedain? Do you remember your father?
You remember a rush. You didn’t even know what you were hurrying from or where you were hurrying to – but you ran with the others. You remember hurried words and quick preparations. You remember pulled-open cupboards, ransacked stores and a hasty dressing.
Do you remember your father or just the night he died?
What do you remember, Aragorn, Isildur’s heir? You remember your father’s horse standing unsaddled. You remember a tall Elf bundling you up in arms that shook and passing you to one who looked the same. You remember being held against a cold leather jerkin and the clasp of your mother’s hand on your foot. You think you remember words – you know you remember waving.
You remember cold and a wind that burned. You shivered even in the sheepskin you were bundled in. You remember seeing snow caught in the dark hair of the Elf who held you. You remember the constant jolting and bumping of horses ridden hard over rough land, and how you stopped only for snatched moments of time. The quiet one coaxed you to eat while the other one cared for the horses. He murmured words that sang but meant nothing. They talked to each other that way too – in words without meaning.
You remember glimpses of fields and forests, hills and valleys, an old stone-built wall, a broad muddy stream, a dark tangled wood and a deeply shadowed path where the Elves rode with their bows out. You remember an isolated house where the horses were changed and an old woman scrubbed your face clean and fed you soup. There was the same sense of dark urgency there – the same hurried rush – and the same half-finished sentences above your head.
You remember the darkness - and how the horses slowed to a walk until the moon rose and shone a pale light onto the snow-banked fields and black-branched trees. You were afraid of the dark wilderness and cried, wanting your lamp-lit house and own warm cot. The Elf who held you wrapped his cloak around you and whispered words of comfort. He showed you the silvery river of stars that ran above you and promised that one day he would take you to see that sky-river reflected in the dark waters of the mighty Anduin. Then he showed you the evening star, where sails the father to your fathers and the father of his father… but that story you knew. Do you remember it from your father? Do you remember?
What else do you remember, Aragorn, fatherless son of Arathorn, from that ride through darkness? You remember how the two who rode with you sang as the black night faded into the grey light of day. You remember how the strong chest you rested against shuddered as the song ended – and you remember the dampness of tears. You hadn’t known that warriors – and these were surely warriors with their bows and long-handled knives – cried.
You remember how you ached with stiff and sore muscles as you rode on into the brightening day and how you longed for the horses to stop. Be brave, remember you are the son of a great warrior, they said when you whimpered and asked for your mother, but you felt the breath shake in their chest again. Did you ask for your father? Can you remember that?
You remember still that haste, the feeling of urgency that even a babe like you sensed. You were too young to recognise danger but you felt the shiverings of it through your escort. Without words being used, you knew to stay quiet when you came to places where others were and to stay half-hidden in the shelter of the cloak. You remember strange folk, strange words, strange places – from the noise of a market town to the dark empty silence of green-mounded hills.
You remember how you stopped to rest the horses in the shelter of an ancient thicket of holly and how the deep green leaves and the fiery berries glowed against the snow-covered ground. You remember the quiet twin pacing the bounds of the thicket while the other held you in his arms and sang you to sleep.
What can you remember, Aragorn, looking back now through decades of time? You remember the twins’ promise that your mother would come later – did you ever ask for your father? Why can’t you remember? You remember the sadness in the twins’ eyes and songs. You remember the birds they showed you even as you hurried through woods. You remember the snatched meals of dried fruit and bread from your home and the strange cake the twins carried wrapped in leaves. You remember the warm smell of horse and the clean smell of the Elves. You remember struggling not to cry when they lifted you back on a horse for the second day’s travel. You remember the warmth of the twins’ arms… why can’t you remember your father?
What do you remember? Bitter stinging sleet and then cold clear sunshine – that’s what you remember. You remember the impatience that ran through the twins at every rest. You remember a crumbling ford where the horse stumbled and reared and how one of the Elves whispered ‘Elbereth’ in the way your mother did, once you were across and safe. You remember knowing you were safe as long as one of these grey-eyed Elves held you.
You remember the darkness of the second night, deep in a forest where little moonlight could reach you. You remember the sound of the horses grazing and the whisper-quiet footsteps of the twins. You remember the comfort of the small fire, and the pictures they found in it for you. You remember them trying to teach you their names and you fumbling in a maze of ‘e’s and ‘l’s. You remember falling asleep against the warmth of an Elf’s body while you watched the firelight play on a long knife’s blade.
Do you remember the ride into Rivendell, through the pass of red rock, beneath the pines, beeches and oaks – or are you just remembering what you know you must have seen? You think that you remember Elrond, remember the relief you heard in the twin’s voices, remember being lifted down from the horse, remember a grave voice from above your head that said, Welcome to Imladris, Estel
At least you remember your second father.
*Thanks to Nessime, Nilmandra, Starlight, Lyllyn and all those useful horsey people over in Research Questions who helped with answers. Mistakes are all mine though ;-) Thanks as always to those who have found the time to comment – may the crebain never find you and may your lembas never go stale. ;-) Thanks also to Paranoidangel whose birthday inspired me to write this.
*Canon crunches –- it’s at least very heavily implied that Gilraen went *with* Aragorn but it suited me to believe that she waited a week or two, distracted those who expected to find her gone and saw to the burial of her husband. I also don’t know that they did flee with any speed but I saw the suggestion over in Nic’s Forum and was intrigued.
*Elves – I know, I know – they’re not and Tolkien never called them that but (1) in a story that’s partly about the sound of words and sentences the alternatives seemed too clumsy and (2) the simpler Elf seemed more natural for a small child.
*Why is it in second person? Because I had a teacher once who told me that you *couldn’t* write a story in second person and I’m not very good with don’ts ;-)
*Yes, he does remember a remarkable lot for a two year old, doesn’t he? Mostly I’m pleading writerly convenience but some people, including me, do remember quite a lot from early on and when I realised I needed him to remember a little much I decided to blame it on being a Numenorean. ;-)
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.