Mellon Chronicles

The Stars of Harad

Chapter 1

by Cassia-(T) and Siobhan-(T)

"The Stars of Harad", art by Cassia

"The Stars of Harad" art by Cassia-(T)

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"I have crossed many mountains and many rivers, and trodden many plains, even into the far countries of Rhûn and Harad where the stars are strange."
– Aragorn, The Fellowship of the Ring

Elrond looked his adopted son over with a smile, his gaze wandering to Elladan and Elrohir before coming back to light on his youngest.

"Well, I see that you’re none of you maimed, injured or on death’s doorstep... so what did you do this time?"

Elladan laughed. "Father! If we bring Estel back injured, you’re upset with us, if we bring him back un-injured you think we’ve been up to mischief!"

"Only because I know my sons," Elrond shook his head. "All of them," his eyes twinkled as he smiled at Estel again. "So Estel, what happened? I know better than to try to get the truth out of these two..."

Predictably the twins protested loudly until Elrond waved them off with a smile. They all knew he was making light with them. It seemed that the elven lord was in a particularly good mood and all three of his sons enjoyed his levity.

Aragorn reported on the success of their mission to drive out a horde of goblins that had been waylaying travelers along the high pass these past months, with much help and interruption by his brothers.

Elrond nodded when they were finished, obviously pleased with his sons’ actions and success. "The day grows old. Wash up, rest, take your ease. There will be a feast tonight, for we have a special guest who arrived while you were away."

His eyes twinkled as he looked at his twins and they got hopeful expressions on their faces, appearing to guess who he was talking about.

Aragorn was completely lost in this exchange, since it seemed to be referencing some previous knowledge that he did not have. "Who?"

"I’ll introduce you later, Estel," Elrond waved him off for the moment. "First you had better go change, you’re not fit to meet anyone like that..."

The twins laughed, but Elrond fixed them with a wry glare. "That goes for all of you. Now go on, go!" 


Aragorn intended to press his brothers about who their mystery guest was, but Elladan and Elrohir seemed to have completely disappeared by the time he had finished changing and the whole house was busy buzzing around and preparing for this evening, therefore he quickly made his way out into the gardens so as not to be underfoot.

The sun was setting slowly in the west and the night birds were taking up their evening song as Aragorn wondered alone through the woods near Imladris, softly joining the singing of the birds, for the evening was beautiful and his heart felt light.

"The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.

Tinúviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And the light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering..."

The song was part of the ancient lay of Lúthien, who was also known as Tinúviel, and told the story of the love that the daughter of the great elf king Thingol had shared with a mortal man named Beren when the world was yet young. Beren and Lúthien were actually ancient grandsires of both Aragorn and Elrond, although of course Elrond’s longevity made him a closer relation. The song was beautiful and seemed to fit the quiet mood of the evening.

There was no rustle, no soft murmur of feet upon grass, however faint, to alert the young ranger to the presence of another, but as Aragorn rounded the base of a huge oak he pulled up short and fell silent. For directly ahead of him he saw what at first he took to be a vision, for it seemed to have sprung directly out of the song he was singing. In the fading light an elf maiden walked silently on a greensward among the white stems of the birch trees. The dimming light caught in her dark hair and remained there. She shimmered faintly in the growing dusk as if illuminated with her own light.

For a moment, Aragorn was too surprised to speak, thinking that he had wandered into a dream and fearful lest he shatter it and it flee. If the maiden sensed his presence, she did not give any sign; indeed, she seemed engrossed in her own thoughts and silent conversation with the trees and the earth around her. She continued on her way and Aragorn feared that this dream was going to vanish into the mists of evening and he would never see it again. That thought ached strangely.

"Tinúviel, Tinúviel!" he called out, even as Beren had done in Elder Days long ago. He could think of nothing else to say, for he felt certain that he was seeing a vision of Lúthien Tinúviel, the most beautiful woman ever to dwell in the vale of Middle-earth.

The maiden stopped and turned, her deep eyes finding his and a smile touching her lips as she took in the young stranger. She had never seen him before, but there was something about him that gave her pause; a stature of inner greatness that the youth himself had yet to fully realize. And something else...

"Who are you? And why do you call me by that name?" she asked with a widening smile as the young man hesitantly approached.

"Because I believed you to indeed be Lúthien Tinúviel, of whom I was singing. But if you are not she, then you walk in her likeness," Aragorn somehow managed to be at least half-way eloquent despite the fact that he was staring at the maid as if he would be content to do so forever and forget that the rest of the world existed.

"So many have said," the woman answered seriously. The young man’s obvious enchantment was amusing... but when she looked in his eyes... when she looked in his eyes something in her heart stirred in a way it never had before. "Yet her name is not mine. Though maybe my doom will be not unlike hers," she murmured, for the lady had in part her father’s gift of foresight and at that moment her future which had once seemed so certain to her, suddenly became clouded and no longer clear. "But who are you?" she repeated her earlier question.

"Estel I was called," Aragorn finally got himself together enough to answer. "But I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Isildur’s heir, Lord of the Dúnedain." Yet he felt that all titles paled when compared with the quiet loveliness before him.

The maid laughed lightly. "Then we are akin from afar. For I am Arwen, daughter of Elrond, also named Undómiel. I have heard of you from my father, and just recently from my brothers. They speak highly of you, Estel."

Aragorn blinked several times, trying to absorb that information. A daughter? Elrond had a daughter? He had not known that. He had thought that Elladan and Elrohir were his adopted father’s only children.

Of course! It struck him like a thunderbolt. This must be the special arrival they had all been talking about... and what his brothers must have been busy with earlier. Yet he still didn’t understand...

"Often it is seen, that in dangerous days men hide their chief treasure. Yet I marvel at Elrond and your brothers; for though I have dwelt in this house from childhood, I have heard no word of you, as you seem to have of me. How comes it that we have never met before? Surely your father has not kept you locked away behind sealed doors?" Aragorn chuckled at the thought, but the question still puzzled him. He thought he had known everything about his family, but this was an utter shock.

"No," Arwen shook her head. Her laugh was silvery as she gazed up at the Mountains in the east. "I have dwelt for a time in the land of my mother’s kin, in Lothlórien. I have only just returned to visit my father again. It is many years since I walked in Imladris." In truth, Arwen spent a great deal of her time with her grandparents since her mother passed over the sea and was not often home, though the love between herself and her family was great. "I think they realized this oversight when I returned and rather intended for me to be a surprise," Arwen admitted with a faint smile. "My brothers said they were waiting for the feast to tell you, I do believe they had some sort of joke planned."

Aragorn chuckled. "It sounds like them."

They walked together in silence for a time and the cool night breezes blew around them. Aragorn was trying to process everything he had just learned... and he was trying to decide how old the beautiful maiden at his side truly was. He knew how it was with elven age, but... but she looked no older than he was now and it was hard to think of her as any other way. However the wisdom and depth of her eyes belied her features, as was often the case with elves.

As if sensing his thoughts, Arwen glanced over at him with a barely suppressed grin. "Don’t be surprised. The children of Elrond have the life of the Eldar, even as it is with my brothers. I am their younger sister, but not by what you would consider to be a great score of years."

Aragorn dropped his head, embarrassed. "Was I that easy to read?"

"Yes," Arwen smiled at him with a merry glitter of amusement.

"Wonderful," the young ranger muttered to himself, feeling something like an idiot, although he wasn’t even sure why. "My bro-" he stopped himself, realizing that they were her brothers as well and not wishing to seem presumptuous of her family. "Elladan and Elrohir are always telling me I ask stupid questions. Now I don’t even have to bother asking them to sound like a complete fool."

Arwen laughed, which she seemed to do quite easily. It was a beautiful sound to the young ranger. "You mustn’t pay too much attention to my brothers; they think they know everything." She touched the side of his face gently, tipping his head up again.

Aragorn nearly started at her touch and both of them felt an almost electric charge pass between them. For an instant Aragorn placed his hand over hers, gently holding it there for a moment before both of them quickly dropped contact and looked away, continuing walking as if nothing had happened.

"They are always trying to outdo one another and everyone else," Arwen picked up the thread of her previous subject with some difficulty. "Father said it’s because they are twins, but I think it’s just them. By the Valar, they nearly drove my father and mother insane when we were young," she shook her head at the remembered antics from happier, more innocent times, carefully neglecting her own involvement in the mischief. "And poor Celboril, trying to keep the house safe from the three of us..." She and her brothers had many, many fond memories together.

"That, I can believe," Aragorn couldn’t help returning her smile. "And to think they blame all their trouble on me now..."

"When they haven’t set themselves up as your personal bodyguards, whether you like it or not..." Arwen returned with a knowing smile.

Aragorn looked up. "How did you know?"

"They’re my older brothers, remember? Who do you think they mothered before you came along?" Arwen shook her head. "Well, I’ll have you know that I can out-ride, out-shoot, and out-fight the both of them," she said with a wicked grin.

Aragorn couldn’t help laughing. "That would be a sight worth seeing!"

Arwen smiled daintily. "Pure survival tactics I assure you."

"Knowing your brothers, I believe it," Aragorn was watching her again. He couldn’t help it; it seemed that his heart would break if he had to stop looking at her. "Please don’t stop," he said after a few moments of silence. "I would hear more about you, and your brothers, your life... if you are willing," he added somewhat hesitantly. In truth he could listen to her talk about the hibernation habits of wargs and be enraptured.

"You want blackmail material on my brothers," she guessed with a conspiratorial smile. "Well, since I am certain that they take advantage of your youth and race every time they get the chance, I suppose that wouldn’t be a very unfair advantage... But what of you Estel? I have heard naught of you until I returned but a few days ago. My father has told me some, and my brothers spoke of your latest adventure when we were together earlier, but there is much I would know about you as well. I would learn more of the one they have come to consider so dear."

Night had completely fallen now, but neither of them noticed it. They had eyes only for one another, and the faint glow that accompanied Arwen Evenstar as she walked reached out to encompass the young human at her side. Together they wandered through the trees, lost in talk, in the night, in each other.

Eventually they came to an open glade and lay down on the cool green grass, gazing up at the stars and speaking of the stories behind the constellations, although it seemed to Aragorn that the heavens held less beauty than that which was at his side.

The hour grew even later.

"We should go back," Arwen murmured after a while, rolling onto her side and looking at the young ranger across from her, who was already leaning on his elbow, watching her as his fingers idly toyed with a strand of grass.

"Mm hmm," Aragorn nodded without making any move to rise.

Arwen didn’t move either. "We’ll miss dinner..." there was very little real concern in her voice.

"Mm hmm," Aragorn agreed again without any action to support it.

She smiled at him and rolled onto her back again, face towards the glimmering heavens above. "Well that’s all right, I can blame it on you."

Aragorn chuckled. "You are related to Elladan and Elrohir."

Arwen laughed softly, pointing up at the sky. "Do you see those stars there? To the right of the Hunter and the Standing Bears? When I was a little girl I thought it was sad that they had no story, so mother took Elrohir and I out here one night..." she drifted off into another story, another memory and Aragorn listened and watched. Enjoying the moment, the moonlight and the musical sound of her voice.

They talked a long time and the night grew old ere they finally made their way back. The feast went on until nearly morning, with many people constantly coming and going, and the two of them were not unduly missed, although Elladan and Elrohir made a good show of being disappointed that their surprise had been spoiled. No one made any special note of the evening’s events, but both the elf maiden and the ranger knew that this evening was the beginning of something that neither of them could foresee aright. Arwen was yet undecided on what it all meant, for her heart told her one path, but her head led her to another and she was torn, but Aragorn’s doom was sealed, for from that moment on he loved Arwen Undómiel, daughter of Elrond, and knew he would for the rest of his life.


Two months had never passed so quickly. Rivendell seemed to come alive in a new and different way when Arwen was there. The lines of care eased from Elrond’s face and Elladan and Elrohir positively glowed when their little sister was around. There were many feasts and festivities and the whole vale seemed to become a merrier, brighter place for a time. No one seemed to take any special note of how much time Aragorn and Arwen started spending together, and if they did, they missed the significance of it. The fact was that they were seldom apart, for often times Arwen accompanied the ranger and her brothers even when they went on hunts, with only mild and mostly playful looks of disapproval from her father who had given up trying to discourage her from imitating her brothers years ago. Evenstar was every bit a lady, and her mother and grandmother’s influence was clear, but she was also her father’s daughter and not about to be outdone by her older brothers in anything if she could help it.

Much to his amusement, Aragorn did get to see Arwen make good her boast to best her brothers, especially when it came to riding, where she routinely beat them all.

"I swear, sister," Elrohir laughed as they reined their steeds in after one such race. "What have they been teaching you in Lórien? I doubt very much that grandmother rides like that!"

Arwen just laughed, earning her a playful swat from Elladan, which she easily ducked.

Aragorn enjoyed watching the whole family together, it was a beautiful thing. Yet the more he saw, the more his heart became troubled. For he was beginning to understand that for he and Arwen to ever be able to realize the love that was growing between them would mean an unimaginable sacrifice on the part of Arwen and her family... his family. What would his brothers... no, her brothers, think of him if they knew what he was feeling? What would Elrond think? That last was an almost terrifying thought because he had seen how deeply Elrond loved his little girl.

He knew the stories, he knew the great trials and troubles that had come upon Beren and Lúthien and even Idril and Tuor, the only other instances of human and elf intermarriage. He knew what the elf women in question had to sacrifice for the mortals they loved.

Would his family hate him for what he felt? Would it change everything between them forever? How could it not? Aragorn’s heart was torn and these were questions he did not know how to answer, so he put them aside for the time and simply enjoyed the beautiful days while they lasted.

"It’s a pity Mora couldn’t come with us today," Arwen remarked as they turned towards home. "At least he could always give me something of a challenge, unlike some others I could mention..." she shot her brothers a devilish look, including Aragorn in the warmly taunting gaze.

"Ah, but I don’t think he ever forgave you for not marrying him," Elladan shook his head with a smile. It wasn’t true, because Moranuen had long ago gotten over that disappointment, but it was something of a long-standing joke between the siblings because of the circumstances surrounding the entire affair.

"Mora asked you to marry him?" Aragorn blurted in surprise.

Arwen rolled her eyes. "We were children, Estel. You know how children are... you kiss a scraped knee and say something nice when other people are making fun of them and they think they’re in love with you."

Elrohir laughed. "And he was positively insufferable about it for years too, followed you around like a puppy dog until he got over it. But of a truth, sister, who could look at you and not love you? Right, Estel?"

The question was lightly meant, with no deeper meaning intended, but Aragorn felt himself start to flush deeply. He glanced at Arwen which only made the problem worse. "I – uh, yes, right."

He and Arwen both looked away and everything became very quiet for a few moments.

Elrohir blinked and exchanged a puzzled glance with his twin who shrugged and raised his eyebrows. "Was it something I said?"

"Race you back to the house!" Arwen changed the subject abruptly, spurring her stead to a quick gallop. "Last one there has to explain to Celboril why we don’t have any game, again!"

The others raced after her with cries of "no fair!" and the subject was forgotten. For the moment.

Not many days later, Arwen announced her intention to return to Lórien once again. Elladan and Elrohir protested bitterly and begged her to stay longer, but her mind was made up and she told them they should come and stay with her there for a while sometime. Elrond did not stand in her way, for he seemed to understand that since her mother’s passing, Rivendell no longer entirely felt like home for his daughter and he wanted her wherever it was that she felt happy.

Aragorn felt like someone was cutting half of his heart out. Worse was the growing suspicion he had that it was because of him that she had cut her stay so short. The situation between them was growing... extremely complicated. Arwen had as much as told him that they needed some time to consider what was happening between them very carefully. She felt as if they were hiding their feelings from her family, which did not sit well with her, but then, she was not yet sure of what exactly her feelings where. Or if she was, then she did not yet wish to admit them, even to herself, and especially not to Aragorn. The ranger was so young and trusting and, she knew, so madly in love with her. Fate seemed cruel sometimes, and the last thing she wanted to do was give him false hope of any kind, because she would not see him hurt like that, because... because she loved him?

That couldn’t be possible. She was thousands of years old. How could her heart take such an abrupt turn in the space of a mere few weeks? It seemed ridiculous.

Space. They definitely needed space.

"Arwen?" Aragorn’s voice made her look over her shoulder as she secured the packs on the back of her horse. The young ranger made his way around the feed bales to the back of the stable where she was preparing to leave. Most of the rest of the company who was riding back to Lothlórien with her was already assembled in the courtyard and waiting for her. "I have to know. Are you angry with me? Do you wish we’d never met?" he asked quietly, unable to bear the silent questions of his own mind any longer.

Arwen did not look up for a few moments, tightening her mare’s girth and checking the pack straps a second time.

"Arwen, please..." Aragorn laid a hesitant hand on her shoulder, begging her to look at him.

Arwen looked up and Aragorn was surprised to see tears shining in the depths of her eyes. "How could I ever be angry with you, Estel? Or regret a moment of our time together? My brothers love you, my father loves you, is it any wonder that I..." she stopped short of saying the words, but looked down, gripping the side of the saddle in front of her tightly.

"Then you do..."

She put her hand up quickly, touching his lips for silence. "I don’t know, Estel. I don’t know anything anymore. I don’t want to hurt you. Please, let’s leave it at that, for now." Her eyes pleaded with him to not ask more of her than she was yet ready to give.

Aragorn nodded slowly, trying with all his might to not feel hurt and failing miserably. "For now," he agreed softly, catching the hand that was against his lips and kissing her fingers gently.

Arwen closed her eyes and when she opened them again Aragorn’s face was very close to hers, watching her with those huge, silver eyes of his... she leaned forward slightly and for the briefest of moments their lips brushed, before she quickly turned her head aside and gave him a very sisterly, yet tender kiss on the cheek.

"Goodbye, Estel," she whispered.

Swinging up onto her steed before she could have time to rethink herself, Arwen headed quickly out to the courtyard.

Aragorn just stood there for several moments, feeling more empty than he knew how to deal with.

"What was that all about, Estel?" Elrohir’s voice made Aragorn whirl around. He found the twins standing a few feet behind him, next to the feed bales and felt himself flushing hotly.

"E-Elrohir! I – nothing! I mean... how long have you been there?" Aragorn winced as soon as he said it, realizing how awful that sounded.

"Long enough," Elladan cocked his head to the side, his eyes clouded with confusion. "Estel... I don’t understand what I just saw, so please explain this to me. You just kissed my sister, and it’s nothing?"

"No, but... we didn’t exactly..." Aragorn ran his hand through his hair. This was awkward beyond belief. How did he manage to get himself into these situations?

"Estel..." Elladan’s voice was gentle, but searching. "There’s more than we’ve seen going on here, isn’t there?"

Aragorn sighed deeply, opting for complete honesty with his brothers. "I love her," he whispered.

"We all love her, Estel, there’s nothing wrong with that." Elrohir shook his head, he didn’t quite get it.

"No," Aragorn didn’t know any other way to say this. "I mean I’m in love with her."

"You have been all along, haven’t you?" Elladan shook his head, not knowing how he could have missed this.

"Yes," the human acknowledged quietly. "Since the first time I met her."

"And you didn’t tell us? You thought you had to hide from us, Estel? Don’t you trust us anymore? Or is everything changing between us that fast?" Elladan’s tone was hurt. More so because he realized it wasn’t just Aragorn, but also Arwen who had left them completely out of this startling development. This whole situation was a total surprise for him and he had no idea how to react. His little sister and his little brother... it wasn’t possible. The elder twin’s heart ached. If only Estel were an elf... then he could rejoice for them as he wanted to... but Aragorn wasn’t an elf. As much as the twins loved him, he was still a man. Where would this lead? Arwen couldn’t fall in love with a man, knowing what that meant, could she? Elladan feared that Estel was going to end up terribly hurt and he hated to see that happen.

"But... but she’s your sister, Estel," Elrohir shook his head again with a puzzled, frankly disbelieving expression. He just couldn’t quite wrap his mind around it.

Aragorn shifted uncomfortably. The same thought had occurred to him, but the fact was that they were not related by blood, they had not grown up together and he definitely did not feel for her only as a sister. "Well, not really..."

"Not really, as in, you don’t really consider us your brothers anymore?" Elladan’s voice held an edge of hurt that made it a trifle sharper than he would have chosen. He had no intention of being sharp with his younger brother, but the idea that Aragorn was rejecting them hurt.

"No!" Aragorn shook his head quickly. "It’s not like that at all! It’s just... I just – I mean..." the young human dropped his head into his hands, trailing off miserably. He had no idea what to tell them. It wasn’t as if he had planned any of this!

Aragorn didn’t know what to say, his heart was hurting and he feared he was losing more than the woman he loved, he was losing the family he loved, and depended on. Unable to bear his brother’s surprised looks any longer, he shouldered by them and ran out of the stables, quickly disappearing into the trees beyond.

Elrohir was still confused and in shock, he looked to his brother. "Elladan... I don’t understand what’s happening... What are we going to do?"

"I don’t understand either," Elladan shook his head. "But we’re going to go see Arwen off. Then we’re going to find Estel. And then... I have no idea, Elrohir. I have no idea."

Aragorn watched Arwen leave from the trees, but did not go down to see her off. He did not return home that evening. Although his brothers looked for him, they could not find him. When he finally did return the next day a strained silence hung over them that they did not seem able to break. It was just as Aragorn had feared. Already it had started and he was beginning to feel like a stranger in his own home.

A few days later Elrond called Aragorn into his study. Aragorn entered and sat down when bid to do so, wondering what his father wanted, for Elrond seemed grave and his face was lined with care. "Aragorn, son of Arathorn, listen to me," Elrond started, his voice serious and somewhat sorrowful.

Aragorn tensed. Elrond rarely called him by his full right name unless he was in trouble, or the elf lord was incredibly serious about something.

Elrond seemed to sense the human’s apprehension and softened his tone somewhat. "Estel... you know I love you. You are a man in your own right now by the standards of your race, and I cannot tell you what to do and what not to do. But I would that you hear me on this. A great doom awaits you, either to rise above the height of all your fathers since the days of Elendil, or to fall into darkness with all that is left of your kin. It is not for naught that I named you Estel when you were brought here, but many years of trial lie before you. They will be hard and long I think, and so I say to you, you shall neither have a wife, nor bind any woman to you in troth, until your time comes and you are found worthy of it."

Aragorn tensed in earnest this time and he thought his heart had stopped beating.

Elrond knew.

He had known this moment had to come... but he had dreaded it. His father’s love and approval was so vitally important to him, it had been his whole life... but if Elrond felt he had to chose between the flesh of his flesh and his adopted child... Aragorn swallowed hard. Wishing for the fifteen-billionth time that things had not turned out the way they did. He would never ever regret meeting Arwen, nor falling in love with her... yet he cursed himself for being human, for loving everything and everyone in the elven world and being unable to truly be part of it.

"M-my brothers have spoken to you?" the young ranger’s voice cracked slightly.

Elrond sighed, but favored the young man across from him with a small, sad smile. "No indeed, although I suspected they knew something. They have been all together too quiet since their sister’s departure. No, Aragorn, your own eyes have betrayed you. For I see many things and sometimes can read the hearts of men. But I do not speak of Arwen alone. You shall be betrothed to no man’s child as yet. You are young, Estel, adult though you be, and through many sorrows I fear your path shall take you... but as for Arwen the Fair, Lady of Imladris and of Lórien, Evenstar of her people... she is of a lineage greater than yours, and she has lived in the world already so long that to her you are but a yearling shoot beside a young birch of many summers," Elrond shook his head, there simply was no easy way to say this and he had never expected to have to attempt to do so.

"I mean you no shame, my son, when I say that she is too far above you. And so, I think, it may seem to her as well." Elrond looked away. He said ‘I think’ because he could not be sure. He wished he could be sure, he wished he could think that Estel’s was simply the infatuation of youth that he would get over in time, as others had... but when he looked into the boy’s eyes he saw something deeper than that. However, the truly frightening thing was what he had seen in his daughter’s eyes before she left. He had not spoken with her because he had not been sure at that time... but what he had seen in Aragorn confirmed it for him and now he was left to wonder exactly where Arwen stood.

The elf lord sighed. "Even if it were not so, and her heart turned towards you, I should still be grieved because of the doom that is laid on us... understand you Aragorn, that if she loved you the way you love her, then she would be forced to chose between the destiny of her kind and the destiny of yours? That she would have to renounce everything she is?"

Elrond had gone through that before. He had lost his brother that way. His twin.

Aragorn looked down at his hands. "I understand, that I have turned my eyes to a treasure no less dear than the treasure of Thingol that Beren once desired," he said quietly, his heart sinking. "Bitter are the choices that come to us in such times."

"My son..." Elrond said quietly, wishing with all his heart that things could be different than the way that they were. "There will be no choice before my beloved Arwen, unless you Aragorn, come between us and bring one of us, either you or me, to a bitter parting beyond the end of the world. You do not know yet what you desire of me." Elrond had to look away lest Aragorn see the tears in his eyes. The elf lord wondered sometimes if he had lived too long. Long enough to slowly lose almost everyone he cared about. At least he could hope to see his dear wife again someday, and perhaps his parents... but there were others like his brother whom the human fate had stolen from him... he did not want his daughter to make the same choice as his twin had. Yet neither did he wish Aragorn the pain he knew the young man was in... Elrond sighed. Sometimes even the wise did not understand why there had to be so many hard choices and so much pain in the world.

Someday everything would work out, better than either of them could have imagined, but for right now the present was a painful mass of questions.

Aragorn could not bring himself to meet his father’s eyes. His whole world was coming down around his shoulders and it seemed that he was both hurting and alienating everyone he loved. He said nothing because he couldn’t think of anything to be said. Elrond had told him once that nothing he did could make the elf lord love him less... but Aragorn was certain that not even Elrond had considered this possibility, and he was no longer sure.

Elrond sighed. "The years will bring what they will, Estel. We will speak no more of this until many more have passed. The days darken, and much evil is to come."

"Yes," Aragorn nodded as he rose, not sure if he could even call the elven lord father any more, or if he had managed to forfeit that right, along with whatever place of belonging he had once held here.

Elrond watched the young man leave and then dropped his head down into his hands as soon as the door closed behind the young ranger.

"Give me wisdom..." he murmured in quiet anguish. "I fear I am losing them both."

I feel like you don’t want me around.
I guess I’ll pack all my things,
I guess I’ll see you around,
It’s all been bottled up until now
As I walk out your door,
All I can hear is the sound
Of always, always, always, always...


"Estel, where are you going?" Elladan caught up with the young ranger outside the courtyard. Aragorn was packed and mounted on his horse, heading out of Rivendell.

"Out," Aragorn said simply. "I received word from some of the other Dúnedain that cannot wait."

Elladan eyed his younger brother suspiciously. "Does father know?"

"Yes," Aragorn nodded, averting his gaze. He had informed the elven lord, but he had not asked his permission nor his blessing, and not waited to find out if he would get either. He had to get out of here. He could not live one more minute in a place that held memories of warmth and a sense of love, with the harsh reality of feeling like he did not belong there. He did not blame either his father or his brothers, he knew this was all his fault. He had managed to mess everything up, as usual... but he couldn’t stay. He wished he could just forget everything. Forget this situation, forget who he was... forget all the pain. His heart was going to break. He felt like he had at last truly lost everything. And somehow... he had known all his life that he would.

"Wait a minute and Elrohir and I will go with you," Elladan saw the look in his little brother’s eyes and put his hand on the ranger’s leg, willing him to stay. Elrohir nodded his agreement as he came on the scene.

"I don’t need you to protect me," Aragorn shook his head. Then he realized how that sounded when Elladan backed off, his face registering hurt. The young man sighed. "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that... I need to be on my own for a while, all right?"

They had joked about such things often enough, but the elven twins could tell that Aragorn was very definitely not joking this time.

"All right, Estel," they backed off, allowing him to pass. "Go safely, brother, I would hate to have to go looking for you."

"I don’t know when I’ll be back," Aragorn stared somewhere between his horse's ears. "It may be a while. A long while. I may have to go south for a time. Don’t worry about me, all right? And tell father..." his voice choked. He wanted to leave before he went to pieces. He had to get out of here now! "Never mind," he whispered. "I have to go." He spurred his horse and rode quickly through the gates, leaving the twins staring after him, wondering what had happened to their family.

"Fare you well, brother," Elrohir whispered quietly as Aragorn disappeared from sight. "May the Valar watch over you since we cannot."