Many Guises and Many Names
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Rangers of the North: 11. Queen of the Lost Realm
Cemendur and Hurin were presented to still more members of the ever increasing Royal House at Elrond's table that evening.
Chief among them the Lady Gilraen, mother to the Lord Aragorn, a beautiful silver haired woman in a rose red gown who reminded Hurin of a gentler, sadder Lady Gilmith. She smiled at him. "You seem troubled, Lord Hurin."
"Say rather bewildered, my Lady." he corrected ruefully. "For five hundred years Gondor has thought the House of the Kings extinct, it's something of a shock to find it flourishing here in the North."
"Would that we were." she answered wryly. "Ellemir and Arador, our Fourteenth Chieftain, had but three children. The eldest being my husband Arathorn." a shadow passed over her face, "He was slain just a few years after our marriage, Aragorn is our only child."
Hurin murmured sympathetically. She smiled again to reassure him and continued. "You have met my husband's younger brother Armegil and his wife Gilmith who is my sister." Ah, that explained the likeness. "Gilvagor is their son."
She nodded towards a youth of about nineteen years seated farther down the table who strongly favored the Lady Ellemir, his grandmother, meaning he looked enough like the Lord Elrond to be his son instead of Prince Armegil's.
"Arathorn had also a sister, Ellian, between himself and Armegil in age. The twins and Iril are the children of her daughter, Beruthiel. You have met her son Belecthor I think?" he nodded. "Angwen there is his daughter," she indicated a young girl, about the same age as Gilvagor, a classic Numenorean beauty with dark hair, creamy skin and blue-grey eyes. "and Gelion is his son." Gilraen finished.
Hurin stared at the little boy sureptitiously flipping nutshells at Princess Niphredil, unable to see any resemblance at all to his grimly regal sire. Gelion looked up unexpectedly, their eyes met and Hurin experienced an sudden flash of Sight; a Man even taller than Belecthor with the same grave, chisled features and a star upon his brow. He blinked and it was gone. Reached for his goblet and took a quick, restorative gulp of wine.
He was not given to Seeings, that gift too had faded in the South, and was uncertain what to make of this one. Had he Seen young Gelion as a Man wearing the star of the Northern Kings? or some royal ancestor of Isildur's Line? Gilraen didn't seem to have noticed anything amiss. "So you see there are none so many of us as all that. Now, tell me about my son! You know him well?"
"I cannot say anyone knows Thorongil well, save perhaps my grandfather. He is reserved and silent and difficult to come near." Hurin began slowly. "But he is much admired," smiled a little, "indeed we younger knights fairly worship the ground he treads, and not just for his skill at arms." he struggled to put into words the effect Thorongil had on the Men around him.
"For all his quietness there is a power in him - no, say rather a light that draws us to him like moths whether he will it or no. He cloaks himself in shadow and silence trying to hide the flame within him but ever and anon it flashes out and dazzles us -" Hurin stumbled to a halt, flushing. "I am talking nonsense."
But Gilraen's smile held understanding not derision. "No you're not. I know exactly what you mean."
And no doubt she did, for had he not seen the exact same fire in Armegil, Belecthor and the twins? And yes, the Lady Ellemir as well. Looking down the table he saw it again, burning bright and unconcealed in young Gilvagor. The boy had not yet learned to hide his power, but he would. Like his father and cousins he would cloak himself in Ranger green and impenetrable reserve and walk concealed and unknown among his people all his life - unless the King should come again. ***
Hurin was not surprised when the Lady Ellemir and Lady Gilraen joined the company in Lord Elrond's withdrawing room, which included also the twins, Cemendur and himself. By now he was accustomed to the manners of the North where the ladies, rather than retreating to apartments of their own for gossip and cakes after dining, sat with the Men in serious talk over good wine.
Ellemir was gowned in silvery violet silk beneath a gauzy white mantle sewn thick with pearls in intricate interlacing patterns, a pearled circlet upon her brow. Not young but very beautiful, stern and queenly with the Elven light bright in her eyes.
Lord Elrond sat beside her, like enough to be her brother rather than the remote ancestor he was, winged brows drawn together in a slight frown. And at his left hand was the Lady Gilraen an altogether gentler presence, her brilliance muted.
"So Armegil has persuaded you to return to Gondor and keep silent about the Dunedain of the North." the Elf Lord began, almost accusingly.
"My Lord, the Prince has told us an open alliance would mean the destruction of both our peoples, and we have not the knowledge to gainsay him." Cemendur replied, then ventured cautiously: "Certainly that is not the answer we wished to take home with us."
"Armegil is the Heir and Chief of the Rangers in Aragorn's absence but he does not speak for the Dunedain." Elrond declared austerely. "It is not for him to accept or reject alliance with Gondor."
"Yet my son's concerns are not unfounded." the Lady Ellemir observed. "We Dunedain chose to disappear a thousand years ago to protect our country folk from the ire of the Dark Lord, which we will surely bring down upon ourselves and them if he learns we survive. Already we are hard pressed, it is unlikely we could withstand an open attack."
Lord Elrond's hand slammed down on the arm of his chair. "The Dunedain cannot hide forever! Already your numbers have dimished over the long years. Would you wait until your enemies have devoured all but a tithe of your people before you move?"
"I would wait until the time is right." Lady Ellemir returned coolly. Saw the Gondor Men's puzzled looks and explained. "It is I who speak for the Dunedain in the Chieftain's absence. As head of the House of the King's Sword I am hereditary Steward of the Realm and regent." She smiled at Hurin. "Not unlike the Hurionath." (1)
Hurin blinked. He was not unaccustomed to strong Women, his mother was one such and his sisters promised to be two more, but he had never before met one who held power in her own right rather than through the indulgence of some Man, father, husband or son. Clearly the Law of Tar-Aldarion, allowing for female succession, was still followed in the Lost Realm.
"Gondor is also hard pressed, yet she still stands." Hurin put forward cautiously. "If we could divide Sauron's attention, and his forces -"
"The Dark Lord's designs are not yet complete," Lord Elrond agreed, "if we could strike now, Men and Elves united as in the Elder Days -"
"But can they be united?" Ellemir asked. "Lord Cemendur has already expressed his doubts."
"The claim of the Heirs of Isildur to the throne of Gondor was denied twice by the Council of the Realm." the Cemendur said unhappily, added quickly as Elrond took breath to argue. "My Lord whether this was justly done or not, done it was and we must deal with the fact."
"Then let Aragorn call himself the Heir of Anarion instead." the Elf Lord snapped. "Tis true enough."
"Say rather the Heir of Elendil." said Ellemir. "I am the last of the Elemmirioni, in my children and grandchildren the three lines of descent from Elendil are united." (2)
"But will such a change in style make any difference to the Gondorim?" Ereinion asked Cemendur.
The Councillor could only shake his head. "My Lord, I cannot say. Maybe."
"And maybe it would be best to avoid the question altogether." Ellenion suggested. "Are we not both still bound by the treaty Araphant and Ondoher made?"
Lord Elrond looked as if he was going to object but Cemendur was before him. "I'm sorry, my Lord, but that cannot be done. Once it is known an Heir of Elendil survives the question of the kingship will be raised and must be faced."
"This matter of an alliance is beyond my authority." Ellemir said crisply. "It is for the Lord of the Dunedain himself to decide whether or no it is time to abandon our secrecy. Just as it is for him to decide whether to claim his throne. Go back to Gondor, my Lord Cemendur, and make your case to my grandson."
Hurin felt his hopes rise. Of course the choice by right belonged to Thorongil, and while none of these Northern Dunedain could be expected to have much feeling for Gondor Thorongil - the Lord Aragorn - knew and loved her.
Elrond too seemed satisfied to leave the matter in his nephew's hands. "Very well then, we must see you get safely home."
"Ereinion and I have already undertaken to guide them over the High Passes." Ellenion assured his uncle and Elrond nodded his approval.
"A moment, my Lady." Hurin said suddenly, rising as they all turned questioning eyes on him. "Lord Ellenion spoke of the treaty between Araphant and Ondoher. Prince Armegil told us how you have kept it all these long years. It seems to me high time Gondor made some return."
"It has been for us to make repayment for the fleet King Earnur sent to our aid." the Lady Ellemir assured him kindly.
"That was a thousand years and several wars ago." Hurin retorted. "Thorongil's service has been of great value to Gondor. Though I cannot possibly match his deeds I would make due return by taking service with his people." and moving forward he knelt at the Lady's feet.
"Hurinya -" Cemendur began.
"I'm sure my Grandfather will approve once he knows the facts of the matter." Hurin interupted firmly without turning, continued with his eyes fixed on Ellemir's. "I cannot claim to be the Lord Aragorn's equal in birth but I am the only son of the Lord Steward's elder daughter and third in line for the White Rod after the Lord Denethor and his son Boromir."
Winged eyebrows lifted slightly in thoughtful consideration.
"You say your grandsire will approve, Lord Hurin, but what of your father and mother?" the Lady Gilraen asked gently. "You are their only son, might they not begrudge your absence?"
"My father is dead." Hurin said quietly. "And my mother - will understand. As you, Lady, understand the reasons for your only son's long absence."
"I hope that is so." Gilraen said softly. "Very well," the Lady Ellemir decided, "if you are resolved on this, my Lord Hurin, I accept your service in the name of Aragorn Dunadan, Isildur's Heir." she laid a light, firm hand upon his bent head. "As the liege man binds himself to the Lord so is the Lord bound to the liege." she said then continued in the High Elven tongue: "Vanda sina termaruva Elenna-noreo alcar enyalien ar Elendil Voronda Voronwe. Nai tiruvantes i harar mahalmassen mi Numen ar i Eru i or ilye mahalmar ea tennoio." (3)
Hurin shivered, recognizing the ancient Quenya formula. Only the Kings of Old had dared to bind themselves by oaths in Eru's name. That this Woman should do so was a potent reminder of her Blood and Heritage. *********************************************
1. Ellemir owes her position as regent for Aragorn to this hereditary office rather than her rank as widow and mother and grandmother of three Chieftains.
2. The Elemmirioni, (aka House of the King's Sword) descended from Elendil's daughter, Elemmire, who acted as regent for Valandil during his minority. Her heirs, the Princes of Dunhirion, were also Stewards of Arnor and Constables of Annuminas.
(3) "This oath shall stand in memory of the glory of the Land of the Star and of the faith of Elendil the Faithful, in the keeping of those who sit upon the thrones of the West and of the One above all thrones for ever."
Those who bound themselves by oath to the Kings of Elendil's Line put themselves in those Kings' power and that power could be terrible indeed as the fate of the Oathbreakers of Dunharrow shows. In return the Kings of Old bound themselves by the most solemn oath possible not to abuse that power. Nor can any be said to have ever done so.
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