My Favorite Aragorn Stories
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Water and Stone: 2. A Day of Turning
Some way ahead, close to the gate of Caras Galadhon, he could see the guardroom, and the healing house not far from it. Both were long low wooden buildings, beautifully built and carved in pale wood specially garnered by Celeborn the Forester not long after he and the Lady Galadriel had first come to dwell in Lorien. At first the Lorien elves had been unsure about such earthbound structures, but over the years they had accepted their usefulness, one as a meeting place for those elves who were on guard duty in Lorien and the other for those who needed special care or who through injury could not easily ascend a talan. As he approached them, Haldir thought sadly that both buildings were used far more regularly now that the Shadow from the East was spreading once again.
He hoped his new captain would make his company another strong line of defence against the darkness.
Celinn was waiting for him outside the guardroom, his straight lithe body clad in the soft green tunic and breeches of the pellamir.
‘Well met, Celinn,’ said Haldir. ‘Gwirith is waiting in the gathering place: he has just arrived from south Lorien.’
They went out into the wide garden that surrounded the guardroom. In the distance just where the trees began, Celinn could see someone waiting in the morning light, looking away from them into the forest.
‘Is that Gwirith?’ he said, as they walked towards him.
‘Yes. He bears a great resemblance to his brother, don’t you think?’
But to Celinn there was something very unlike Luinil in his brother. Luinil was lively and unreserved, but as he looked at him standing against the dark green of the forest, there seemed to be a deep remote stillness in Gwirith’s bearing, in his back which he held as straight as a spear. There was something curbed and restrained about him; in the way that, save for the two slender warrior braids on either side of his face, he kept all his dark shining hair confined in a single thick heavy braid which fell to the middle of his back. His tall slender body seemed somehow effaced by the quiet colours of his simple garments. The only things that seemed to call attention to themselves were his weapons, the beautifully shaped longbow, made of a dark wood which shone with polish, the quiver full of handsome arrows and the sword at his waist. But all his gear was simple and unadorned. Neither on his weapons nor on his person was there any ornament or device.
Celinn and Haldir came within audible distance and they saw Gwirith’s face as he turned towards them. He was indeed very like Luinil, lacking nothing of his brother’s beauty, except that instead of Luinil’s hazel eyes, Gwirith’s were blue-grey under dark brows, vivid against his pale skin. He had a straight, steady mouth, firm and yet somehow resigned, and in his face was the same haunting stillness as his body. Although he stood tall and proud, it was if he carried something very heavy, and only with the utmost concentration and the most perfect balance could he take the burden without being bent intolerably out of true.
Celinn felt humbled by his own untroubled span of life, and he did homage inwardly to the solitary courage he saw in Gwirith’s quiet face.
Haldir stopped in front of Gwirith. ‘Here is your new captain, Gwirith. Celinn will take up the duty as I hoped he would.’
Celinn stepped closer to Gwirith and was about to put out his hand to greet him when he became aware of a powerful resistance, like a barrier surrounding Gwirith. Although the other had not moved or spoken, it felt as real as a gust of icy wind or a belt of jagged rocks. Gwirith regarded his new captain calmly as Celinn struggled to deal with the disharmony of what he could see with his eyes and what he could feel with his fea. He experienced his first occasion of perplexity with Gwirith as he looked into the other elf’s clear eyes, on a level with his own, and knew without a doubt that Gwirith would reveal nothing of himself unless he had absolutely no choice, and that behind the stillness was something powerfully defended.
Regaining his composure, Celinn said,
‘Welcome to Caras Galadhon, Gwirith. Luinil has told me how he wished to have you near him again. I am sure he will be very happy that you have joined us.’
Gwirith’s lips moved slightly but not in anything that might be called a smile.
‘Thank you, captain,’ he said formally. ‘I am here because Haldir has commanded me to join your company. I will do my best to serve you honourably.’ His eyes flashed coldly at the Guardian of Lorien.
‘Did you not wish to leave south Lorien?’ Celinn asked, surprised.
‘It is my duty to obey the commands of the Guardian,’ he said.
Celinn, who usually had no trouble at all thinking of something to say, found himself struggling against the desire to dismiss Gwirith immediately.
‘I hope you had a good journey from south Lorien,’ he said.
‘Yes, captain, I did,’ said Gwirith.
‘Please,’ said Celinn, ‘there is no need to call me ‘captain’ all the time.’
Gwirith nodded. ‘Very well,’ he said, and his eyes moved from Celinn’s face to look over his shoulder. Abruptly Celinn gave up.
‘Our duty begins at dusk tonight. I will see you then,’ he said, just managing to keep the slight sense of depression from his voice.
Gwirith saluted to them both and they returned the gesture, a hand to the brow and the heart, and then he turned and left them, striding away into the forest.
Celinn gave a deep sigh. Haldir smiled at him. ‘Your first test as captain of your company,’ he said dryly. ‘Gwirith is known to be aloof.’
‘No, it is more than that,’ said Celinn, frowning. ‘Something is wrong here. There is a darkness around him.’
‘Do you think so?’ said Haldir, surprised.
‘Yes. There is a discord in him, a flaw: as if something had broken in him and has not mended. He seems still and quiet, but his fea speaks differently,’ said Celinn, pondering what he had felt. He sensed a change in Haldir, and looked at the Guardian.
‘What is it, Haldir?’
Haldir’s face had lost its normally ironic expression. ‘There is something, but I do not know what it is. It goes back to the time that Amroth was lost. Luinil told me his brother had suffered, but would not tell me how. Luinil and Gwirith came to Lorien from Eregion when it fell. Both lived in the south of Lorien until the time the Lady and the Lord came to rule in Amroth’s place. Then Luinil came to Caras Galadhon to be near them, but Gwirith stayed in the south. He has lived alone for many years.’ He fell silent for a while, then said, ‘Did your mother-gift tell you about Gwirith’s fea?’
‘Yes,’ replied Celinn, pensive. ‘I wonder how this darkness touches his fea.’
‘It may be that it has become a friend with which he lives in peace.’
‘I felt neither peace nor friendship,’ Celinn said. It seemed he might be about to say more, but he fell silent.
‘It may be that he will speak to you himself, if he wills,’ said Haldir. ‘But even if he does, which I doubt, it may change nothing.’
‘I do not seek to change him, only to understand him.’
‘Then understand that he is as he is, and that is all,’ said Haldir.
Celinn sighed again. ‘You are wiser than I, Haldir,’ he said.
‘No, I am not,’ the Guardian replied. ‘You have a wisdom which senses the fea of others. I do not have this gift, but I have long years of command which have taught me much. Come, I will give you the keys of the armoury and then we will meet Aragorn and the other captains.’
Celinn allowed himself to be led away by Haldir, and in the busy hours that followed he had little time to think about Gwirith. But he stored away what he had learnt until he would have time to consider it more deeply.
Aragorn woke with a start, and for several moments he had no idea where he was. Then his eye fell on the green bowl decorated with leaves on the table near him, and he remembered the events of the evening before. He sat up and swung his legs to the floor, surprised at how weak he felt. Immediately the curtain moved gently and a voice spoke his name.
‘Who is there?’ said Aragorn.
‘Celinn,’ said the voice. ‘Would you like some refreshment? The Lord and Lady are not here but they have left everything ready for you.’
Aragorn was suddenly famished, and pulling back the curtain he saw a table spread with things to eat and drink.
‘What hour is it?’ he asked, sitting down and beginning to help himself.
‘The sun is at its peak,’ said Celinn, sitting down gracefully at the table and watching him with pleasure. ‘You seem much restored today, Aragorn.’
Aragorn nodded, his mouth full of fruit. ‘How long have I slept?’ he asked.
‘Three turns of the sun,’ said Celinn.
Aragorn stared at him. ‘Three days?’ he gasped.
‘The fever broke last night. The Lady and the Lord washed and…what do you call what you do to your face?’
‘Yes, they shaved you. Galadriel said she did not want you to feel itchy.’
Aragorn rubbed his hand across his smooth cheeks.
‘I thought I was dreaming,’ he said dazedly. Suddenly he was alert. ‘What about Surindel?’
‘It is all in hand. Three of Rumil’s company are taking him home.’
Aragorn sighed. ‘So I must have told you where to find him,’ he said.
‘That is not all you told us,’ said Celinn dryly. ‘You are most eloquent when you are delirious. I have learnt many new words, and I have heard your views on many subjects.’
‘What did I say?’ gasped Aragorn.
‘Oh, amongst other things, you described in some detail what you would do if you ever laid hands on the men who killed Surindel; and you declared your love several times.’
‘Who did I declare it to?’
‘Oh, you were quite fickle: the Lady Galadriel, Haldir, me… and someone else whose name I could not quite understand: Arien?’
‘By Elbereth, what must you think of me?’ whispered Aragorn, suddenly pale.
‘Be at ease, Aragorn,’ said Celinn, smiling. ‘It was the fever speaking. We have all done it.’
‘You have raved as I did?’
‘More times than I can remember. Now eat and regain your strength. Tomorrow is the day of my braiding, and I wish you to come to the feast afterwards. Our captain was called unexpectedly to Mirkwood, and I am to take his place at the head of my company. Then Haldir and I will show you Lorien, and after that Rumil’s company will come with you to search for these men.’
‘Will you be there?’
‘No, this turn of the moon, my company is on duty within the borders.’
Aragorn leaned back in his chair, a splash of red juice on his cheek. ‘I have not been to a feast since the one before the fall of last year, just before I left Imladris. The Dunedain do not celebrate much.’
‘Then that is even more reason for you to attend,’ said Celinn. ‘And maybe one day you will give them cause to celebrate.’
Aragorn smiled, but then he sighed suddenly. ‘It must be pleasant to know you have your company to rely on,’ he said quietly. ‘It is lonely journeying alone. Before this time I have never travelled without my brothers.’
‘I am sure I would miss Aiglin if I had to leave him,’ said Celinn. ‘Can they not come with you?’
‘No,’ said Aragorn, growing melancholy. He bowed his head and his untidy dark hair flopped down over his face. ‘This is something I must do alone.’
Celinn reached out and laid a hand on Aragorn’s arm. ‘Aragorn, the Lady spoke wisely yesterday when she counselled you to seek what strength you could in others,’ he said. ‘You were born to lead, not to carry the whole burden on your own shoulders.’
‘What do you know of that?’ said Aragorn sharply.
‘The Lady has told me your true lineage,’ said Celinn quietly. ‘I have sworn not to reveal it.’
Aragorn looked at him mutely, pride and uncertainty flickering like shadows in his clear grey eyes. At last he spoke, so quietly that Celinn had to lean forward to hear him.
‘I must not fail,’ he said, half to himself. ‘Not only the doom of Arda, but my own happiness depends upon it.’
Celinn watched him carefully, and his mother-gift stirred within him.
‘You have left someone in Imladris, someone you love, but it is not an easy love,’ he said gently.
‘It is impossible,’ said Aragorn in a bleak voice. ‘I will never be worthy of her.’
‘Never despair,’ said Celinn. ‘Where there is love, there is change and power. No-one save Eru himself knows what will come of it. Keep up your heart, Aragorn.’
Aragorn stared at him, blind to the long years that had given him wisdom, seeing only his beauty and kindness. In a moment the melancholy had left him and in the changefulness of his youth he was filled with joy.
‘You are right, Celinn. How could I let my hope die so quickly?’ he said. ‘I will do my duty, I will seek what help I may, and I will win her in the end. I am at a new beginning.’
Celinn pushed his heavy golden hair back from his face. ‘And so am I,’ he said, smiling at him. ‘We will learn together.’
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