1. Swords Returned
The little boy craned his neck to look up at his brother. “Is it Adar, Celepharn?”
“I cannot tell yet, ‘Kil.” The two boys stood together watching. The few other families along the road to their farm also paused in their work as the Ranger’s horse trotted towards them.
“Why do people always stop talking and working whenever a Ranger comes home, Cel?” Tarkil wondered. “How come no one waves or runs to greet them until they have passed Edhelwen’s house?”
Celepharn frowned at the lad. “Because Edhelwen is the first to see if the Ranger brings an extra sword.”
“Extra sword?” Tarkil pushed his long hair out of his eyes, squinting as he looked up. “Why would he need an extra sword? Is his broken - like lord Aragorn’s?”
Celepharn winced to hear his brother’s voice carry and saw Cundir’s mother, Dúlinn glance their way and frown at him, giving him a signal to quiet the child. He bent down and whispered, “if he doesn’t carry an extra sword, then Edhelwen will wave to him and we will know if the Ranger is just visiting or coming home. If she does not wave, then we know it is bad news. You do not want to go running and waving to a Ranger who is delivering bad news. It upsets them.”
“What bad news, Cel? Like their Naneth or Adar is angry at them, or that someone broke their favourite mug?” Tarkil whispered in return and craned his neck to see over the hedge. “I cannot see – pick me up, Cel, so I can see if Edhelwen waves?”
Celepharn picked his little brother up in his arms. “When Adar comes home, ask him about his sword, ‘Kil. But whatever you do, do not ask Naneth, she will just get upset.”
“She waved, Celepharn! Edhelwen waved! That means it is good news, right? Now we can wave?” The little boy squirmed from his brother’s arms. “Maybe it is father. It has been so long since he left – I miss him. And he never calls me ‘runt’.”
“Ai! Where are you off to?” Celepharn chased the lad as he unlatched the gate and scampered down the road, waving to the Ranger.
“It is father! Adar! I missed you.” Tarkil called as he ran, nearly stumbling in his haste. Celepharn caught him by the back of his tunic, stopping him from sliding in front of the horse on his belly as their father quickly guided his steed around them.
The Ranger ruffled his eldest boy’s hair then reached down and lifted his youngest son into the saddle with him. “Mae Govannon, Celepharn; and Tarkil, I am very happy to see you too but what have I told you about running in front of a horse.” He sternly questioned the boy who twisted to stare up at him with large grey eyes.
“Never to run at them,” the lad whispered. “I am sorry, Adar.” He leaned across the horse’s neck, whispering as he scratched its neck. “I am sorry, Lagotal. I did not mean to scare you.”
“Luckily for us both, he did not startle. But a horse can be a dangerous animal, little one. You must treat them with respect.” Beleg turned the horse into the lane to their house and dismounted, chuckling at his youngest who tried to grab the reins and pretended to ride the stallion. “Not today, Tarkil lad. Lagotal has travelled a great distance and needs a rest. We can take him for a ride tomorrow.” He removed the reins from the boy’s hands and lifted him in his arms. Once they reached the barn, Beleg placed his son on a fresh pile of hay in the corner. “So what have you two boys been up to? Have you been good for your mother? Have you been doing all your chores?”
“Yes, sir,” they chorused.
“Mother took Mallor, Haldon and Valandur to Grandmother Aniriel’s, Adar. If you want, I could fetch her.” Celepharn informed him as Beleg started to remove Lagotal’s tack.
“Mallor is angry with me because I broke his favourite mug but I did not mean to, it just slipped out of my hand while I was helping Naneth set the table. Will you be here for Naneth’s birthday? Celepharn told me that sometimes you carry an extra sword, Adar. He said that you carry one when you get upset.” Tarkil piped up, suddenly remembering the conversation.
“That is not what I said, runt.” Celepharn quickly corrected his brother, catching his father’s frown.
“Yes, you did and then you told me to ask Adar about his sword.” Tarkil crossed his arms and pouted.
Beleg scowled at Celepharn and tossed him a brush. “Just for that, you get to finish grooming Lagotal, and can muck out his stall for my entire stay.” He undid the sword from his belt and sat down beside his youngest son, laying the sword in its scabbard across both their laps. “This is Arathand, Tarkil. It is a special sword for our family.”
“Yes, Adar. I remember Valandur getting in trouble for touching it last year. You told him that it was made by an elf in Lindon who gave it to Grandfather Tarkil ages ago.” Tarkil intoned solemnly as he put his hands behind his back so he would not be chastised too.
“Yes, son, it was made by an elf named Raudano, but not for your grandfather Tarkil; Raudano gave it to Aranarth’s youngest son, Arandir. He is one of our ancestors from long before your grandfather was born. Raudano named Arandir elf-friend and gave him the sword as a gift for his help during the battle against the Witch King when Angmar fell. And you can touch the scabbard and hilt, you will not get in trouble while I am with you.” He helped Tarkil read the inscriptions on the scabbard and showed him the tracings on the silver hilt. “Is this sword anything like the sword hanging in the hallway?”
“No, Adar, Berior is much plainer and the end bit is different.” Tarkil twisted to look up at his father, “they do not look alike at all.”
“Yes, and the end bit is called the pommel,” he chuckled. “So when the people see that the Ranger is carrying a second sword, they try to see if the sword is that of their own kin or someone else’s. Because each Ranger’s sword is unique.”
“What is a neek?” He questioned, eliciting another chuckle, this time from Celepharn.
“Unique, runt. It means each sword is different from any other sword.”
“Oh. And Arathand is U-nique from Berior. So why do you need an extra sword?” Tarkil traced a small finger along the etchings on the long scabbard.
Beleg scowled at Celepharn again who hurriedly leaned over to check Lagotel’s hooves and so avoid his father’s glare. “When I go out on patrol, I always wear this --”
“Yes, Adar, and your rayed star, too.” Tarkil interrupted as he closed his small fist around the hilt of the sword, and though he did not have the strength to pull it from its scabbard, Beleg closed his hand over the small boy’s to stop him from trying.
“That is right; I always wear my sword and my star. All Rangers do. And what do Rangers do, my inquisitive son?” Beleg put the sword aside and lifted Tarkil onto his lap, cuddling the lad as he nestled against the strong chest of his father.
“Rangers protect us,” he announced proudly. “You fight bad people and evil creatures like Orcs and Trolls and … and … bargs.”
“Wargs,” Celepharn chuckled. “They are called wargs, runt.”
“Yes, we protect people, little one. And sometimes that means we have to fight.” Beleg paused, wondering how much information his youngest son could assimilate. “And sometimes the ranger can get hurt.”
“Like you did last year? But the elves at Rivendell helped you, they made you all better, Adar.” Tarkil leaned his head against his father’s chest as he frowned. “I did not like it when you got hurt because it made Naneth cry. But I still do not understand about having to watch for an extra sword!”
“I know, lad.” Beleg paused as he realized his son would not be satisfied unless he had the entire answer and silently grieved that Tarkil had to lose some of his innocence so early. He leaned his cheek against the lad’s head and breathed in the fresh scent of his hair. “You are tenacious, Tarkil. You can be just as stubborn as your Grandfather Tarkil was.” He spoke quietly,“sometimes a Ranger is not as lucky as I was last year and they get hurt much worse than I did. Sometimes, little one, the ranger dies in battle.” He felt his son stiffen in his arms and hugged him tighter and whispered to him. “When the Ranger dies, his friends bury his body properly. And if the ground is frozen or rocky, then we build them a cairn. You saw a few of those on the way from Rivendell last year, do you remember? And the other Rangers carve their friend’s name as a cirth into a rock to leave at the site, so no one will forget who lies there. You know a few of the cirth already, remember me teaching you how to carve your name last time I was home?”
The boy nodded into his chest and wrapped his small arms tightly about his father’s chest. “Why can they not bring the Ranger home and bury him near his family?” Tarkil’s voice wavered. “Naneth would be sad not to have you home with her.”
“Most times we are too far away and it would be very difficult to bring our bodies back. But the Ranger’s commander, or sometimes a good friend of the family, brings his star and his sword back to his family. So that is why Celepharn said that people always watch to see if a Ranger brings a second sword. Because that means they bring back the sword of a fallen Ranger.”
“And because each sword is unique, I would be able to tell whether it was you or somebody else?” Beleg felt a damp spot growing on his shirtfront before the boy’s muffled voice finally asked. “Is that how you got Arathand? They brought it to you when Grandfather died? Who died so Celepharn could use Berior when he starts to train?”
“Halbarad brought home your grandfather’s sword and now I use it when I go on patrol. But Berior was my sword before Arathand; it is just an extra sword so Celepharn can use it when he starts training next year.”
“I do not want to use Arathand when I become a Ranger, Adar. Or even Berior. I want a new sword, all my own.” Tarkil pouted.
“Why is that, Tarkil?” Beleg asked, curious as to his son’s thinking.
“Because that means you are still using Arathand, and Celepharn still has Berior. I do not want to carry either of them because that means you would be dead and I would rather have you than your sword.” Tarkil sniffled.
“So would I, child. So would I.”
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.