“I brought lunch,” Aragorn said with a small smile,
nodding towards the
tray in his hands as he let himself into his brother’s room. He
battled his own hesitancy as Elladan looked up. The elf had
barely spoken to his human brother since he had ordered the young
ranger out of their father’s room several days before.
Aragorn tried to believe what Elrond had told him,
that Elladan had not
reacted to him out of anger or blame towards himself, but rather anger
and helplessness at their situation. However, the fact that the
elf still seemed to be holding himself distant from his little brother
did not encourage the young ranger.
“That is well,” Elladan smiled ruefully, with a
frustration. “Since they see fit to keep me like a prisoner in
“You’re as bad as father,” Aragorn shook his head as
he set the food
tray down on a table by Elladan’s bed and drew a chair over for
himself. “Elves really do make miserable patients you know,” he
Elladan just shrugged and sat up stiffly, not
meeting his brother’s
eyes. Usually such a taunt would have warranted a snappy
come-back from the elf, but Elladan said nothing and Aragorn resisted
the urge to bite his lip. He didn’t like what had come between
They ate in virtual silence. Aragorn made
conversation, but Elladan said very little. Finally the young
ranger couldn’t take it anymore.
“Elladan, I’m sorry, all right? I’m sorry!”
Aragorn looked down
at his hands, giving up any attempt to continue eating when he felt so
sick inside. “I’m sorry that father got hurt because of me, I’m
sorry I ran away and got into more trouble instead of staying to
help... I can’t make it better by saying that, I know, but please...
stop avoiding me. Yell at me if you wish, tell me I was in the
wrong, I won’t disagree, but please... Stop looking at me as if I were
a stranger to you.”
Elladan looked up at his brother, completely
startled by the outburst,
before quickly dropping his eyes again. “Estel, I don’t blame you
for what happened!” the elf shook his head incredulously.
“Then why do you refuse to look at me?” Aragorn
Elladan looked up again quickly, his dark eyes
“Because I drove you away when you were hurting and needed help,
Estel. I didn’t mean to, but I hurt you badly enough that you ran
away and nearly got killed because of it!” The elf’s gaze clouded
with guilt. “When we found your brooch on top of the cliff and it
became clear what had happened... I knew it would be my fault if we
lost you, Estel. And I couldn’t even go looking for you...”
“But it wasn’t your fault,” Aragorn shook his
head. “I control my
own actions, even the stupid ones, not you.”
Elladan was unconvinced. “So you think, but if
I had not acted as
“Elladan, don’t blame yourself for everything that
happens to me,”
Aragorn blurted in frustration, cutting his brother off. It was
ironic for him to be on the other side of that particular
argument. “I’m your brother, not your child.”
“You don’t understand Estel,” Elladan said flatly,
looking away again.
Aragorn resisted the urge to sigh. They were
nowhere. The ranger started to rise, but the elf’s voice stopped
“I remember when you were just a baby, Estel.
When we rode out
that day, years ago, we didn’t expect trouble... but your father ended
up dead,” Elladan said quietly.
Aragorn’s brows furrowed and he sat back down,
grasping the shift in
topic. This was news to him. Obviously,Elladan was speaking
of Arathorn, his human father.
“Yes, Estel,” the elf nodded at the ranger’s
“Elrohir and I were there that day. We were right there and there
wasn’t a thing we could do to stop what happened... or maybe there was
and we did not do it... I shall never know. Arathorn died in my
arms. Then we came back to find the camp gutted and smoking, and
you the only living thing in the middle of all that carnage... I
vowed then that I would not let you die the way your father did.
I would protect you better than I did him.” Elladan did not look
up to meet his adopted brother’s gaze. “And that was even before
I knew you, before you grew to be a brother to me...” he did not
Aragorn was silent for several moments as he
pondered this new
information. Little had ever been spoken of his coming to
Rivendell and he remembered no time before he had lived here, other
than his old nightmares. Those were the only place that he ever
recalled seeing his human father’s face, although he had no way of
knowing whether it was an accurate picture or not. He had always
supposed that perhaps he saw his father die, but he knew now that it
was not so, yet in some way, he had known what had happened.
However, realizing that he had apparently witnessed the sack and
slaying when the camp was destroyed helped Aragorn understand the
terrors that had haunted his childhood dreams, horrors that his
innocent mind could not understand then.
In light of the revelation, he also began to
understand some of
Elladan's occasional over-protectiveness of him. Elrond was
right; Elladan was a protector. But the time was drawing
near when he would be able to protect Aragorn no longer and they both
knew it... Still, it was hard for Elladan to let go of the charge he
taken upon himself.
These thoughts passed unspoken between them and
slowly the tension
seemed to start easing out of the room.
“I don't make your job any easier, do I?” Aragorn
breaking the silence after a few moments.
Elladan actually smiled softly in response, shaking
wryly. “Nay, little brother, assuredly you do not!”
“I don’t know...” Aragorn cocked his head to one
side, taking in the
bandages the elf was wearing. “I’m not the one who got stuck
under a hundred tons of fallen building...”
Elladan rolled his eyes. “No, just under
falling trees in
flooding valleys with hunting wolves about!”
Aragorn laughed, “What?! Who told you? I swore
Legolas to secrecy.”
“I weaseled it out of him,” a laughing voice from
interrupted them. Aragorn turned to see Elrohir leaning against
the door frame. “Is this a private party?” he questioned
with a mischievous grin.
“Elrohir, you brat!” Aragorn shook his head.
Elrohir’s smile was
infectious and he motioned his brother in. “You weaseled it out of
Legolas or you wrestled it out of him?”
Elrohir sat on the edge of the bed and started
eating food off of
“Beat it out of me is more like it,” Legolas
answered for the
twin before he could speak. He stepped into the room and stood
just inside, egging on the conversation and teasing Elrohir.
“Oh please. You exaggerate.” Elrohir rolled his
eyes, popping a piece of
fruit in his mouth.
“Care to see the bruises?” Legolas raised his
eyebrows in mock
indignation, and started to roll up his sleeves.
“What!?” Aragorn glared at Elrohir and stood to his
feet, moving towards
Legolas who could contain his laughter no longer.
“No Strider.” He held up his hands to fend off the
ranger. “I am only
teasing.” The elf glanced at Elrohir. “I did tell your brother,”
he confessed sheepishly, “He kept asking me and well...it is actually
awfully funny. I mean I never would have found you if I hadn’t
stepped right on you like that.” Legolas shrugged and his glance
was an apology in itself.
Aragorn shook his head and glared at the twins. “You
have been around
my brothers too long.”
With a light laugh Legolas agreed, “That in all
likelihood is very
true.” The elf leaned around the ranger, smiling at the twins quickly
before redirecting his attention to Aragorn. “However, the reason I
to find you is that Mithrandir would like to speak with you before he
“Of course.” Aragorn walked past Elrohir and smacked
the elf lightly
upside the head, eliciting a burst of laughter from the twins. He
had just reached the threshold when Elladan called him back.
Aragorn turned questioningly.
“Thank you.” Elladan smiled warmly at his
younger brother. “And
thank you for rescuing me too,” he added, knowing that the human
would understand full well what he meant.
Aragorn smiled openly at the dark-haired elf and
welcome. He leaned back into the room, his look turning
mischievous as he added, “Elrohir there had the hard part. I just
pulled you out.”
Aragorn found Gandalf in one of Rivendell’s exterior
hallways gazing at
a fresco that had been painted onto the palace wall many years
ago. The picture depicted a battle scene: a human warrior was
pressed back by an armored demon, his sword shattered on the creature's
breastplate. Behind the painting on the opposite side of the
walkway was a statue of an elf holding the pieces of the same broken
sword on a stone tray draped with velvet.
Quietly the ranger approached the old wizard and
stood silently just
behind his right shoulder, gazing at the scene so artistically
on the wall.
“Interesting painting, wouldn’t you agree?”
Aragorn did not answer right away. The picture was
more than just a
finely wrought representation for the ranger, it was history, his own
history and it was still too new for him to know exactly how he felt
Gandalf glanced at the human out of the corner of
his eye, carefully
watching the young ranger’s responses. Aragorn’s eyes were
narrowed and it looked like sorrow that creased his brow. The old
wizard breathed in deeply on his pipe, pulling the sweet smoke of the
Shire weed into his lungs. He held it there savoring it for a
moment before releasing his breath, blowing the smoke out slowly so
that it lingered in the air and obscured the painting, concealing it
for a heartbeat before the gentle winds of Rivendell swept it away.
“The future is just like that.” Gandalf spoke
The ranger’s attention was fully on the older being
and he waited a
spell to see if the wizard would continue to speak. When he did
not, Aragorn spoke into the silence, deftly changing the subject, “You
wished to see me, Gandalf?”
The older man started slightly as though he hadn’t
noticed the youth
and turned to fully look at the ranger. “Hmm...”, he nodded, his eyes
narrowed as he stared into the dark silver ones that easily held his
gaze, “that I did. Walk with me.” Raising his pipe to
indicate the direction he wished to go, Gandalf walked off.
Yet Aragorn tarried just the fraction of a second
longer, watching as
the last of the smoke was cleared from the painting and he beheld it
again. Tearing his eyes away from it he glanced quickly at the
broken sword before following the wizard down the hallway.
The slight inattention was not lost on Gandalf and
he waited while the
young man caught up to him, allowing Aragorn to fall into step with him
before he spoke again.
“Elrond has told me that he has informed you of your
“Yes.” Aragorn kept his eyes straight forward but
the muscles in his
jaw tightened imperceptibly, “Such as it is.”
Gandalf looked squarely at the ranger. “You should
speak with more
respect of your ancestors.”
Aragorn halted and turned towards the wizard, “I
forefathers, I am honored to be of their race, if for no other reason
than it is akin in some distant way to the house of Lord Elrond, but...
you know the legacy of my ancestors! What could have been done
and was not. What honor is there in that?” Fire danced in
his eyes and his words were sharp.
With a sigh, the grey-haired man looked down,
collecting his thoughts.
“You don’t yet know the full story, Estel. Only pieces.” He used
the young man’s elven name trying to calm him. “There will come a time
when you are told. But you should know now that your ancestors,
even your human father, were all great men. They just at times
made unwise choices. It happens.” Gandalf shrugged and
began to walk again, trailing the ranger as Aragorn thought through the
older man’s words. Indeed Elrond had told him that the men of his
family were good men, he had known them all throughout his
lifetime. The truth was, Aragorn was proud of his birthright, but
perhaps a little fearful of himself. If so many good men had
fallen, how would he fare when tested?
When Aragorn did not answer him, Gandalf questioned
him further, “Do
you understand the things I have told you?”
The ranger nodded silently, his eyes cast to the
pavement beneath their
feet as it sloped down, terminating in the garden that ran alongside
the house towards the front gateway.
Gandalf continued. There was so much the boy needed
to know. Now was
not the time for full disclosure but there were things that the wizard
knew that even Elrond was not privy to just yet. He stopped
mid-stride and turned towards the human, fixing Aragorn with a kind,
“Estel, be young.” Placing his hands on the ranger’s
shoulder he gave
the youth a gentle shake, smiling into the eyes that reflected a soul
older than it should have been. “Enjoy your youth. Your destiny
will find you soon enough of its own accord. And until such time
as it does, remember that you have friends in this life to
help you who do not care that you are imperfect or slow or young.
Such is the gift of men. And I, young Aragorn, son of Arathorn,
would be honored if you would consider me one of them. Anytime
you should begin to doubt yourself, you just come and talk to
me.” He tapped his chest with his long pipe and leaning forward,
fixed the human with a smiling gaze. “The narrow path is not so
hard to cling to when one is not walking it entirely alone.”
Aragorn stood in shocked amazement, his mouth
dropped open slightly as
he tried to think of how to answer the offer of such a gift. He
would have thought that Gandalf had much better things to do with his
time than bother with him.
“So shocked!” Gandalf laughed deeply, humored
by the young man’s
“Forgive me Gandalf, of course. Yes. I mean please.
I should like to
call you my friend.” Aragorn stumbled for words smiling back at
the elderly man, “I will definitely be taking you up on that
offer.” He gripped the wizard’s arms with his hands.
“Good! Good!” Gandalf turned the ranger
towards the courtyard and
began to slowly amble forward, draping his arm across the human’s
shoulders and pulling the boy closer to him. “But there is one thing
you must promise me.” He gave the youth a conspiratorial glance.
“Anything. You have only to ask.” Aragorn turned
quickly turned serious.
“You must teach me how it is that you are so adept
at throwing these
elves off all the time. First you get Elladan to shoot himself in
the foot and I heard the tale of how you were able to sneak up on your
father and push him into that pond you so love to frequent.” By
this time Aragorn was laughing out loud, “Why there is not another
being around other than another elf that I have ever heard of who can
sneak up on them and surprise them like you do and consistently so!”
“It would be my pleasure, Mithrandir,” the ranger
the wizard’s elven name. “I excel at that. In fact if you had
been raised with Elladan and Elrohir you would have learned quickly
too. It’s the only way to survive in this house!”
By the time they stepped into the courtyard through
the west gate, they
were both laughing helplessly as Aragorn recounted many of the mishaps
that he had played the protagonist in.
Legolas was waiting for them inside the
entryway. He held the
bridle of a high-spirited steed, his face breaking into a huge smile as
the two walked towards him.
With a sigh Gandalf caught his breath, wiping away
the tears that the
laughter had brought to his eyes with the over large sleeve of his
Elrond stood in the doorway to Rivendell, his arms
crossed and his
hands thrust into the sleeves his over tunic. He smiled at his
youngest son; the human had a way of bringing joy into every aspect of
life that he touched.
Turning to the elf lord, Gandalf removed his hat and
“My old friend, it is time for me to take my leave of you yet again.”
“May the winds bring you quickly back. You are
ever welcome here,
Mithrandir, and I am indebted to you.” Elrond bowed to the old
wizard his eyes bright.
Turning back to the ranger, Gandalf inclined his
head, “Estel, you remember
“I will, Gandalf, I promise.” The ranger held
out his hand to the
older man but the wizard brushed it aside pulling Aragorn into a warm
“See that you do,” he whispered in Aragorn’s ear.
“Legolas!” the wizard called to the elven prince as
the human stepped
out of the hug. “Watch this one. He’ll get you into trouble if
you aren’t careful.”
“Ah, Mithrandir,” Legolas cast sad eyes on the
wizard, “I am afraid it
is too late all ready, the Dunadan has corrupted me and all within this
fair house. There is no hope for us any longer.”
The answer caused the wizard to break into laughter,
his face crinkling
with a thousand laugh lines, mirth the very color of his eyes, “Well
then make sure he doesn’t get you arrested again and stay away from the
chickens. I’d hate to have to tell your father where I found you.”
“You wouldn’t?!” Legolas choked, biting back the
“Oh wouldn’t I now?” Gandalf teased darkly.
“Mithrandir, we have prepared a horse for your
journey and there are
bags of food and herbs for your travels as you may have need of
them,” Elrond interrupted the teasing, unable to stifle his own
“Ah, and for that I thank you.” The old wizard
walked toward the horse
and easily untied the bundles behind the saddle. “But I have a ride
already.” He cast his eyes skyward.
As if on cue a dark arrow fell from the heights,
freefalling into the
valley directly over Rivendell. Feet above the courtyard arch,
Gwaihir unfolded his massive wings and back beat the air, stopping his
forward flight and gracefully landing atop the stone archway.
Legolas pulled the horse in close to him, keeping a
tight grip on its
bridle as the animal shied sideways, skittish from the presence of
the great eagle.
Gwaihir inclined his head toward Elrond. “It is good
to see the Lord
Elrond up and whole, as well as Thranduil’s son.” The eagle
speared them both with its keen gaze. “How fares your oldest?”
“He is well and I thank you for your assistance,
great one, with his
rescue. Rivendell is in your debt.” Elrond bowed to the
“It was my honor, Firstborn.” Gwaihir waited
until Legolas had
passed the stallion off to a waiting servant before jumping down into
Gandalf turned to his friends and winked at them, a
lopsided grin on
his old face. “Gwaihir has been gracious enough to drop me off at my
next...” He stalled looking for the right words, “my next destination
shall we say, on his way home.”
“I am not even going to ask.” Aragorn rolled
his eyes at the
“It’s just as well,” mumbled the old wizard as he
walked towards the
great bird and climbed onto his back. “I will come again
soon. Take care of each other,” he called to them as
Legolas and Aragorn stepped back, joining Elrond on the steps of the
Gandalf was waving at them all even as the eagle
leapt skyward, its
powerful wings barely brushing the stone walk as it pressed the air
underneath itself and vaulted into the sky.
“He is different, is he not?” Aragorn asked
quietly as he watched
Gwaihir bear away the family friend.
Elrond turned back towards the house. “In all my
years I have never met
the likes of anyone quite like Mithrandir.”
“Do you ever get used to the way he talks?” the
questioned, following the two elves into the main room.
“Never!” Both Legolas and Elrond answered in unison,
causing all three
of them to break into laughter.
The leaves in the courtyard swept in a tight circle
as the winds
streamed down the valley, carrying on their slight breezes the far off
cry of an eagle calling through the rift on its way out, following the
Bruinen as far as it ran.
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