30. Chapter Thirty
Laeriel, with Aragorn's help, sat up, propped against the pillows. She took the cup of tea he offered and slowly took a sip, the liquid warming her throat into the pit of her belly. She needed the fortification that it offered, knowing that her story would be hard for him to hear.
"Laeriel…what happened? You fell…I saw you fall from the cliff."
Laeriel nodded, handing him back the cup. "It's true that I fell. I remember how cold the water was, it was Quellë* after all. It took my breath away. The current in the Brandywine was strong and I was quickly losing my strength wounded as I was. I must have blacked out, for when I woke, I found myself in a beautiful bedroom.
"I was surprised to find myself amongst dwarfs. They had found me, rescued me from an icy river and nursed me back to health. I have a few scars left from that time. Scars that go along with the many I received while with you."
Aragorn squeezed her hand. "When that Orc arrow pierced your chest and you fell…I searched for you. The current was swift, the river swollen with the many days of rain we had endured before you fell. I could not find you…" he said, pain filling his voice.
"It was not your fault, Sire."
"Hush…I am Strider to you, always. Why did you not come to me, once you were healed?" he asked, releasing her hand to brush his fingers across her cheek.
"I was not sure who I was. The dwarfs had healed my body, but my spirit was wounded as well. The dwarfs had taken great care of me, and I will be forever grateful to them. But with my memory loss, they were unsure how to continue my care. They contacted the Elves in Harlond and a contingent of Elves came to collect me."
"And the Elves cared for you? Why did my father not send for me?"
"I was unwell until after Hrívë**. The snows were deep and the weather bitter. Círdan and his elves cared for me until the thaws of Coirë. By then, the memories I had lost returned and when it was suggested that Master Elrond be sent for, I begged Círdan not to send for him."
"Why? My father would have taken you to Rivendell, sent word to me. We would have been together."
"Your father made it quite clear what he thought of me when we had spent time in Imladris. He warned me that nothing good would come of our union. That our being together would keep you from your destiny and to my utter shame and regret, I believed him."
"He would not have done that," he cried, rising from his chair.
"He did, Strider. He warned me that the future he saw for you did not include me."
"And so you stayed away? You made that decision for me. Why? Why would you discard what we had together so easily?"
"You think it was easy for me to give you up? That I didn't mourn the loss of our love? You think so little of me, of how I felt for you?"
"You were my wife! I loved you. I gave everything to you…"
"You gave up everything for me. You gave up the destiny that you were born to; you gave up the right to the throne of Gondor. I could not bear to be the one that caused all of Middle-earth to lose their hope. I gave back what was not mine."
"It was not your choice alone…don't you see that?"
Laeriel closed her eyes, knowing that he could never understand her reasons. That even if she had returned to him, that they never could have been together. "Strider, I need you to understand. I did what I thought was best, at the time. If I could change the past, don't you think I would?"
"Would you? Would you have honored the words between us, the words we spoke to each other that day in Coirë?" he asked, sitting by her on the bed.
"I have honored those words until this very day. You must believe that."
Aragorn searched her eyes and found that she told him the truth. She had honored her vows, and would have stood by him from that day to this one, had there been nothing standing between them. His future had been decided long before he had met her. And that future, that destiny, had always been between them.
"I believe you. What I don't understand…you have barely changed. Your hair is longer, lighter, but you haven't aged at all. How?"
"My father was descended from the House of Bëor and my mother was Elf-kind. I am blessed with long life. I have aged…just as you have."
"What brings you here now? After all this time, why do you seek me?"
"I…I…hold a secret, a secret that I have kept close to my heart for seventy years. I did it, to protect you…and me. And her."
Aragorn frowned. What possible secret could she hold that would harm him, especially after all this time?
"Her name is Adariel. She is my daughter."
"Your daughter? Do you not mean our daughter?" he asked, jumping from her bedside.
Laeriel closed her eyes and placed a shaky hand against her trembling lips. She could hear the anger in his voice. She deserved his ire, but she had done what she thought was best for her child.
"Yes, our daughter. She was born in the season of Lairë, in Mithlond in the year TA 2957."
"Our daughter…why didn't you tell me? I have lost so much time. She's a woman grown…"
He stared at her, disbelief on his face. More? How much more could there be? She had thrown their love away, kept him from his daughter and there was more?
"Six months ago, Adariel and her son, Brannon were kidnapped by slavers. They were being transported from Khand to Near Harad."
Aragorn sank to the chair. This woman had always been a challenge. What made him think things would be any different seventy years later?
"My daughter and grandson are captives of slave traders from Harad. Laeriel, by the Valar, what has been going on all these years? You should have come to me sooner. Who is my grandson's father? Has he gone after them?"
"I went after them. I failed."
"Who is his father?" he demanded.
"His father is your Captain of the White Tower. Brannon's father is Boromir."
Aragorn strode through the citadel, looking for Boromir. His head was spinning with the news that he had a grown daughter, a grandson and his best friend, the man he trusted his life to above all others, was his…what? What did this make Boromir? He had never told him about his daughter. Adariel. His daughter's name was Adariel.
He was still stunned over the news. Laeriel had tired after their talk, understandably, and he had left her to digest the news she had dropped on him. Guards hailed him, but he ignored them, intent on his search for Boromir.
"There you are!" Faramir called, catching up to the King's long strides. "The emissaries from Bard II and Thorin III Stonehelm are waiting in the council chambers. You already missed the garrison inspection. Thankfully Boromir was able to deal with that."
"Boromir…where is Boromir?"
"I believe he is waiting in the council chambers for you, Sire."
"No, I need to see him. Extend my sincere apologies to the dignitaries and the rest of the council and dismiss them all. Then tell Boromir that I wish to see him in my private offices. I will need to see you as well. Also, send a messenger to Legolas and Gimli in Ithilien. They should be here by this afternoon."
"Aragorn…what is going on?"
"Just do as I ask, Faramir. I will meet you all in my private offices just after the noon hour. For now, I need to speak to Boromir."
Faramir nodded and headed off to the council chambers. It was going to cause an uproar amongst the council advisors, but the King did not have to explain his reasons for moving a council meeting. It was obvious that there was something more pressing.
Boromir listened to the grumbling objections of the council members as he headed out of the chambers. He didn't know why Aragorn had canceled the council meeting, but he was infinitely glad to get out of the stuffy room. Faramir hadn't explained much to him, only that Aragorn had requested his presence immediately.
He headed to the stairs nearest to the council chambers and headed up the two stone flights to the King's private apartments. Once he reached the floor housing the King's apartments, Boromir heard yelling. Suddenly, the Queen fled by him, tears running down her fair cheeks.
Boromir was about to return to the lower levels when Aragorn stepped into the hallway. "Boromir," he called, effectively halting his rapid retreat.
Sighing, Boromir followed Aragorn into his private office and stood in the middle of the room. Aragorn paced the opulent room from the massive desk to the closed door, a scowl on his face.
"Aragorn, is there something amiss?" Boromir asked, running a quick hand through his graying hair.
"Boromir…I don't know how to approach this. We have been friends for many years…"
"Friends, brothers and comrades in arms. We have no secrets, Aragorn. Whatever you must say, do so with no regrets."
Aragorn stopped his pacing just in front of Boromir and without warning, doubled up his fist and landed a solid punch to Boromir's square jaw, causing the large man to falter and stumble.
"What the…what in the name of the Valar was that for?" Boromir demanded, holding his grey bearded jaw in his hand.
"For defiling my daughter!"
Boromir's grey-blue eyes grew wide and he protested loudly his innocence. "I would never touch your daughters! Do you believe me some sort of monster?"
"Adariel…my daughter, Adariel. You defiled her, got her with child and then left her alone, to fend for herself and her child. I should have you…"
"Wait…Aragorn, wait! I have a son, by your daughter, Adariel? I did not know you had a daughter other than the three princesses."
Aragorn dropped into the plush chair by the fire and sighed. "Neither did I until an hour ago. It is a long story. One I do not want to repeat more than once. Legolas, Gimli and Faramir will be here after noon. Until then, I suggest a stiff drink."
Quellë*~ The Quenya name for autumn, also called Lasse-lanta; 54 days between modern 8 October and 30 November. Called Firith in Sindarin.
Hrívë**~ The Quenya name for winter; 72 days between modern 21 November and 31 January. Called Rhîw in Sindarin.
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