Steward and the King, The
4. The Tests of Lorien
Aragorn entered Lorien as if to a long lost home, where he would find solace for his soul before leaving all he loved behind him. For most of the others, it was also healing, though their sorrow was not so great.
When the remaining members of the Fellowship reached the elven city, they were greeted by its Lord and Lady. Galadriel looked at each in turn, but she looked longest on Aragorn, for she, also, knew what he hoped for. He met her gaze a time, then lowered his eyes ... and she was afterwards troubled.
Lord Celeborn ordered a tent to be prepared for the travelers and servants brought them there. Frodo was the first to speak. "Why was she staring so long at you, Strider? It was more ... more than our bad news."
Aragorn turned away. It was several moments before he spoke. "What did she ask you?"
"I don't want to stay here," he said quietly.
"Why?" Sam asked.
Without further word, they made their beds and slept deeply, setting no watch. Food was brought them when they woke but they were otherwise let be. When, at last, they spoke, it was of Moria and Gandalf.
Gimli sat with a double sorrow, trying to put to deep memory what little he had seen of Balin's book, before the underground battle had begun. "After so long without word ... We feared. We did not want our fear to be true. There were many that said to Balin, 'Do not do this.' -- "
Legolas looked at Aragorn, though his question was directed to the dwarf. "Were there not others who gave him encouragement? Before we came to the tomb, you were hopeful."
"It ever was a dream of mine, to enter Moria. I was glad when he, when Gandalf -- I still -- such work has never since ... It is veiled all in sorrow, now."
"There were wonders built in Gondor, also," Faramir said. "It was my joy to be born there, the tower and the walls." They had all spoken of their homes before, but the ache was stronger now. "Boromir didn't want me to travel so far from Gondor," he admitted, "but it had to be me. I had the dream. It was a summons. He wanted to come, but we couldn't both. My father pretended agreement, then used that as a reason to prevent me altogether -- I was to take others with me. Three would safer, but too slow. And he could not spare so much, when everywhere was undermanned. Boromir saw his strategy and finally trusted me, and I alone was sent."
"He didn't want you to make this journey?"
"No. But he believed in the importance of the dream. It came so often. He is protective of me, proud of what I did in Ithilien, but he is angry at any danger I put myself into."
"He is a warrior, then, as you are?"
"He is five years older, and would protect me still," Faramir laughed. "We look much alike, except I'm a bit stretched," he demonstrated with his hands, "I'm taller but he is broader … and a stone's weight heavier. We both have swords," he pointed to his quiver, "but I'm better with a bow."
Later Legolas spoke to Faramir, remembering the conversation in Moria which had puzzled him. "You wish Aragorn to come to your city, but you also fear it."
"It is taught by scholars in Gondor that the sons of the last king in the north died with him in battle, even as the last king of Gondor died heirless."
"Do you doubt Elrond's words? He was there."
Faramir shook his head. "It seems their knowledge of distant lands was incomplete."
"So your fear of another Kinstrife."
"I fear he will not come," Faramir answered low. "That with Mithrandir taken from us, he will have to turn aside from his path."
The days passed, there was no discussion, and they lost count of the days. Aragorn seemed lost in memory most of the time, he seemed almost as distant as Galadriel and Celeborn, who they did not see after their first meeting. Gimli let Legolas show him one place and another, and found the attention amusing. He wished to see Galadriel again. Faramir hovered between wonder and unease. He spent much time walking, perhaps wanting to find Aragorn. Instead, he learned – or tried to learn – the ordering of the city. It was more than strange. He sometimes met elves who spoke with enough courtesy, but seemed to say little. The hobbits were happy for food and bed. Sam even tried to find gardens and kitchens to explore; he didn't have much luck. The elves in Lorien seemed more private about their work and homes than the elves in Rivendell.
The tent, absent harsh weather, soon became almost as welcoming as a cozy hobbit home, yet Frodo was often restless. "When we are done here," he said at a meal, "what will we do next?"
"I will guide you," Aragorn answered.
"You are troubled, Faramir," Aragorn said when the meal was done. They were standing outside a distance from the tent, speaking softly.
"She was testing us," he replied. "When we first came here. Lady Galadriel." Aragorn nodded. "She seemed to talk to me -- yet it was a vision, not words. What did she show you?"
A soft wind moved the leaves above them. After a long pause, he answered. "Temptation."
Faramir's reply was spoken quickly. "I saw the land at peace, ... if I go home. Why should she do this?" He swallowed, hard, but kept his eyes open and did not turn away. "I served my King. I don't know if he was you or my father. The King was a tall man, his face was full of light. There were no swords. Green growing everywhere. No hurt. My wife, my children beautiful. No reason to look beyond each other and our family. No cares or worry. If I turn aside." His voice broke in grief. "She is not kind to ask me this. Has my life been so selfish she must test me so cruelly? Is there nothing but darkness?" Finally, he turned away. "Our hearts called to each other -- were we wrong to speak?"
"My test was similar to yours." Aragorn said, looking upward. "Arwen, my lady, dwelt with me. Yet I had become of Elf-kind, not she mortal."
"That could never happen, could it?"
"But in the mind of one mad, the goal of an impossible thing can lead to terrible wrong. The faithless of Numenor who attempted to steal the secret of immortality from Valinor acted under such an error. Luthien demanded an impossible thing, and gained joy. Therefore I am vulnerable, if I be tempted to think I have or could gain power enough. Much I should grieve to be sundered from my ancestors, my mother Gilraen, but Elrond was the only father I ever knew and I will lose him." That had been a great pain for Aragorn since childhood, long before he ever saw Arwen. "What I asked of Arwen was too much." Yet if what she said on our parting is true, then let not my grief slow me. My reward will be beyond the circles of the world. "We were not wrong to speak our hearts."
Galadriel had been troubled in her mind since that first day. She often sat in the forest alone, considering what might be the cause of her unease, and what she might do. So Aragorn found her as he walked. He sat on the ground before her bench, his back against its edge.
She spoke first. "The last you came to this place I saw hope, and hope there is still, yet -- " Her words faltered. She wanted to see his face, but by his choice of seat, he didn't want her to see his. It was thus he would sit, Elrond told her once, when he would come to him when still a child, shy to ask his questions.
"We must leave soon," he explained in a calm voice. "What was once one path is now many."
"Arwen?" she asked, and Aragorn's fist clenched, confirming her fear. It was Luthien and Beren again, and she did not want that pain for either of them. "Estel, why do you grieve?"
"I have seen, and she has seen, and she would cleave to me, she says, come what may. But there are others, Grandmother, who dream. There are others who have power." His voice sank further down to a whisper. "I am grateful my path took me through your land again."
"What do you find here?"
"Peace; strength." He paused. "Healing."
Those were words she did not wish to hear. He no longer hoped for himself. Aragorn had not, he could never abandon hope and duty. But he had never before named her by a word that claimed her as kin. He would not claim kinship now except for a marriage that would not be made. She did not want him to make that sacrifice, not only for her granddaughter's sake. She loved them both. She stood, and when she spoke her voice did not betray her emotion. "Will you walk with me?"
He also stood and followed as she led, but when he saw the bowl and the ewer, he stopped and backed away from the downward stairway, then waited for her to notice he was no longer behind her. He did not look at her face when she returned, but rather stared at her hand, for he knew what she wore there was invisible. "Would you show me visions of glory, Grandmother?" he asked. "Would you have me take this ring and wield it?"
"I ask you only to look," she said gently. "If there are many paths, you need guidance."
"Not your mirror." His voice was flat; it then became determined. "It would be no comfort to see my heart's desire if that path has been taken from me. Nor do I wish you to be tempted to act on my behalf." He lifted his eyes to hers. "I will not repeat Isildur's error. I will not act against my father's counsel, nor should you. What little I know compared to his wisdom, I agree. Has it tempted you, Grandmother? I know by your powers time is slowed here. Do you hold us, wishing to be offered or to take?"
"You wrong me, Aragorn."
"Father has the right of this. We must not rebel. We can take no risk. Forgive me, Grandmother, I can't."
On the morrow came word from Lord Celeborn. Boats had been made ready for the next stage of their journey. Before leaving Lorien, they feasted with the Lord and Lady, and were bid farewell, and given council and gifts. "The Elfstone you will take," Galadriel told Aragorn as she put it in his hands. "For my daughter's daughter has bidden I give this to you as her token."
To the others she gave the gifts she had prepared, and the gift Gimli had named when commanded to say his desire. To Frodo she gave a small crystal phial in which was caught the light of Eärendil's star, which would be a light to him in dark places. "These words go with this gift: If you find yourself in darkness, do not give in to fear. Remember those who love you."
Later that day, as the boats let the river take them down stream, Faramir took a longer look at his gift, turning the pages to scan the text.
"What is the book she gave you?" Pippin asked.
" 'A poem of Lorien,' she said. I think its founding. If Elrond had a copy in his library, I did not chance upon it."
"Back then, we didn't know we would come this way," Merry observed. "And Strider said it, Lorien is a secret place."
=== end chapter ===
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.