2. The Fate of the Three Kindreds
"My lord Steward…", began Aragorn huskily. Denethor shook his head and interrupted.
"Here, son of Arathorn, there are no titles. We all – me, you, my fellows here – have passed beyond such things."
"Be it as you say, Denethor", Aragorn agreed. A thought struck him. "In Middle-Earth the Wise said that the fëar of Men did indeed go to these Halls, but only for a time. Yet – I know not if you know it – more than a century has passed, as Men measure time, since you came here. Does that mean…?"
Denethor again shook his head. "No, Aragorn, as I said, this is but a station on the journey. But every Man – and every Elf – remains here for the length of time appropriate to their natures and histories."
"'Every Man' and 'every Elf', you say. What of 'every Dwarf'?"
"I have seen no Dwarves here."
Aragorn frowned. "Many said that the Dwarves have no fëar, that dying they returned to the stone from which they were created. The Dwarves themselves denied this…but do they lie even to themselves, because the truth is too bitter to acknowledge?"
Denethor shrugged. "Perhaps…or perhaps not. A thing that you will learn is that we denizens of the Halls do not have perfect knowledge. The fate of the Dwarves is still hidden from us. I can only assume that knowing it is not something that will affect our own fates; that we do not need to know it, and therefore do not."
Aragorn shook himself. "These things are but words…and words whose truth or falsehood we do not need to know, I agree. But tell me this – which we do need to know – why are we here, and not…elsewhere?"
Again that smile, without cruelty or mirth. "Look about you, son of Arathorn. Where would you go?"
Aragorn did look about him and saw…only darkness. Although the seated figures could be clearly seen, there was no light falling even next to them. "I know not", he confessed.
"It is even as I said. We need to be here, and therefore cannot go elsewhere. When we no longer need to be, the way will be opened for us."
"Although that way may not be the way that you now expect." The central figure spoke unexpectedly, its sound as beautiful and overwhelming as the tenor bell in a carillon. Denethor seems to go motionless at its sound, not even breathing. Aragorn looked at him in alarm.
"Do not fear, young one", said the figure. "He is not yet ready to hear all that I have to say, and this is how you perceive his refusal. No harm comes to him or any in this place…none, at least, that one does not bring him.
"Yet if you are ready to speak those words", challenged Aragorn, "why are you still here to?"
"Ah, but I am not one of you Followers; this is my proper place. I am called Curufinwë", he said, as if an afterthought.
Aragorn knew well the tales of the First Age. "Curufin, called 'the Crafty'?" he said skeptically. "Long and long you have been here, I know, but I'd not think to hear wisdom from your lips."
"Your own wisdom – or perhaps knowledge – falls short. There were two by that name."
Two? Aragorn thought. Curufin the Crafty, of course; anyone who knew anything of the exile of the Noldor and the wars of Beleriand knew the unsavory stories about him. His son had not also borne that name, though; he was remembered as Celebrimbor, Fist of Silver. Unlike his father, who had borne a name belonging to but never used by his father, who had preferred his mother-name of…
"Fëanor", Aragorn breathed.
"You have named me."
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