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Rangers of the North: 20. The Golden Wood

Entering the Golden Wood was like diving into a
deep pool, leaving the familiar element of air for the
alien one of water. Lorien too felt alien, like
another world and one not meant for Men.

The twins seemed quite unaffected by the eerie
atmosphere of the wood with its still, gold tinged air
and listening silence, and Cemendur did his best to
seem as unperturbed, but he feared with little
success. Rumil didn't even try to affect calm,
starting nervously at every leaf fall.

"This is the Rangers' accustomed path." Ellenion
told him kindly, clearly trying to reassure. "We're
not likely to see any of the Elves - we usually
don't."

Cemendur found himself wondering why and how
frequently Rangers of the North passed through the
Golden Wood. "Your people often come this way?"

"We used to," Ellenion answered readily enough, "to
keep watch on the borders of Mordor but Aragorn's new
Ithilien Rangers have relieved us of that task."

"And well that they did," said his brother, "we
were spread far to thinly."

"How long -" Cemendur began.

"Since the time of the Morgul Wars." Ereinion
smiled grimly. "We have a particular interest in the
Witch King. But now that Sauron has returned a proper
watch would take far more Men than we can spare."

"The Watchers always came by the same road we did,
over the High Pass then down the west bank of the
Anduin." Ellenion explained. "We thought the Rohirrim
far too likely to recognize us for what we were if
they saw our Men passing regularly through their
lands."

"So it's not just the country folk of Eriador you
guard in secret." Cemendur said quietly.

"We hinder the designs of the Enemy wherever and
whenever we may." Ereinion answered.
***

They crossed the Celebrant over a bridge of
intricately carved ivory hued wood. Rumil breathing an
audible sigh of relief when they reached the other
bank, forcing Cemendur to supress a smile.

Yet he too felt relieved. Though the forest on this
side of the river looked identical to the eye with its
rows of tall mallorn trees the eerie gold tinted
silence, like crystalized honey, had vanished. They
were back in their own Middle Earth again for which
Cemendur was deeply grateful.

He saw the young princes had percieved the Gondor
Men's relief and were gently amused by it. Either
custom or their Elven blood had clearly inured them
against the eerie strangness of the wood.

Ellenion caught his eye and smiled. "There's a
Ranger shelter just off the path, we'll sleep there
tonight."

The shelter was a sort of bower woven from the
interlacing boughs of three living trees its floor of
springy turf lumpy with roots. But Cemendur was so
exhausted from the strain of bearing Lorien's eerie
atmosphere that he fell right asleep regardless.

Only to awaken some hours later to find the two
princes had disappeared. Rumil, blinked awake at
almost the same moment and they exchanged a look of
bewildered consternation.

Crawling out of the shelter for a look around
Cemendur controlled a start as a tall fair haired form
clad in soft greens and greys materialized at the edge
of the glade.

"Greetings -" it began. Then the dark shadows under
the trees formed themselves into a Man cloaked in
glimmering night, the long gleaming blade in his hand
touching the Elf's throat.

"Greetings, Haldir." Ereinion said softly, chiding:
"You should know better than to surprise a Ranger my
friend."

"I am not alone." the Elf said, visibly nettled,
and four more Elves materialized around them, arrows
nocked.

"Nor am I." smiled Ereinion nodding towards the
Gondor Men or rather the shelter behind them. Turning
Cemendur saw Ellenion kneeling on its roof, his own
bow drawn.

He laughed gently. "We win this encounter, friend."
jumped down and walked towards the Elves. "What brings
you outside the bounds, Haldir?"

"I was sent by your aunt," the Elf replied, still
looking a trifle ruffled, "she is angered you tried to
pass through Lorien without paying your respects."

"Since we had strangers with us we thought it
better not to intrude upon your dwellings." said
Ereinion.

"If our dear aunt wanted to see us she might easily
have come herself." Ellenion pointed out.

"Must be in one of her grand moods." his twin
remarked.

Haldir's mouth twitched in what might have been a
quickly surpressed smile. "She is, as I said, most
indignant."

"And consquently standing on her dignity." said
Ellenion.

"If we wanted to be difficult we might decide to
stand on ours, and our right of free passage through
the realm." Ereinion observed, smiled. "But we will
spare you that."

"For which I thank you heartily!" said the Elf with
emphasis.

Both princes laughed. "And our companions?" asked
Ellenion.

"Will come with you of course."

Cemendur winced, he'd been afraid of that.
***

The seat of the Lord and Lady of Lorien was a city
of trees, giant mallorns tall as the towers of Minas
Tirith, all aglitter with the same soft blue lights
Cemendur had seen illuminating the garth of
Cristhoron. Grassy tracks wound their way between
great silver-gray tree boles hung with fragile hanging
stairs spiraling upward into the canopy.

To Cemendur's relief their guides ignored these,
leading them instead through a lacily fretted gate and
down a flight of weathered steps into a green dell lit
by ordinary yellow lamps with chairs and couches woven
of sleander withies set among banks of white and
golden flowers beside a sparkling brook singing softly
to itself as it tumbled over polished stones.

A lady was pacing restlessly beside the little
stream, an Elven lady with night black hair hanging
down her back and glimmering blue skirts swishing
angrily about her feet. She whirled to glare fiercely
at the twins and Cemendur caught his breath. Her face
with its flashing dark blue eyes was fairer than that
of a Mortal Woman, yet it reminded him forcibly of
another he had seen and recently at that. Then he had
it; the little Lady Niphredil, she might look very
like this someday.

"You little fiends! What are you hiding that you
try to sneak past me?" the Elven lady demanded. You're
going to Gondor, you must be. Has something happened
to Aragorn -"

"Don't talk nonsense, Aunt." Ereinion interupted
sharply. "If something happened to him we'd tell you,
not try to hide it."

"All is well with Uncle Aragorn so far as we know."
Ellenion said more gently. "So calm yourself, Aunt
dear, a lady of your advanced years shouldn't allow
herself to get so worked up."

The lady laughed weakly. "No she shouldn't. I'm
showing my Mortal side, as your mother would say,
aren't I?" she sat down on one of the couches and
Cemendur could see she was trembling slightly. "I'm
sorry, but when I heard you had passed through Lorien
without coming to see me I got so frightened - it was
foolish of me."

"It was. When have we ever tried to hide bad news
from you?" Ellenion sat down next to her on the couch,
put an arm around her. "We passed through without
visiting you because we were not alone, and because we
had no sure news yet to give you."

"You *are* going to see Aragorn aren't you?"

"We are. This is Lord Cemendur of Gondor, and his
man Rumil. They and another companion were sent by the
Steward to find Aragorn's people. As you see they
succeeded." to Cemendur: "This is Aragorn's betrothed
wife, Arwen daughter of Elrond Half-Elven."

So they were to have an Elven, or rather Half-Elven
Queen, and what would their children be like? Cemendur
bowed to the lady and explained. "It was the Steward's
wish that we find and make alliance with the people of
the Lord Aragorn, who is known in our land as
Thorongil, we had no suspicion he was Isildur's Heir -
and to some the rightful King of Gondor."

"To some -!" she began angrily, again Ereinion
interupted her.

"Spare Lord Cemendur your displeasure, Aunt. He
supports Aragorn's claim - but he cannot say what the
Steward or the Council will do."

Cemendur blinked. Did he support the Lord Aragorn's
claim? and realized with a kind of surprise that
indeed he did. Gondor needed her King. Only by
righting the ancient wrong done to the Heirs of
Elendil could she hope to regain her lost glory - or
even to survive.

"The decision whether or not to make his claim
before the Lords of Gondor is Aragorn's alone," said
Ellenion, "but he does not yet know he must make it."

"And won't until we bring him word of it." Ereinion
shrugged. "So, as I said, we have no real news for you
- yet."

Arwen quirked her lips wryly. "The fact that the
Gondorim are now aware of Aragorn's existence and some
among them would support his claim seems like news to
me."

"But nothing is decided yet." Ellenion warned.

"So don't get your hopes up, Aunt, the matter is
far from settled." Ereinion agreed.
***

Cemendur had been frightened by whispered tales of
the Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood in his nursery,
but never until he was presented to them the next
morning had he heard their names and was stunned to
find them familiar: Celeborn of Doriath and Galadriel,
sister of Finrod Felagund, both listed in the annals
of Gondor among the Elven leaders of the Last Alliance
- which meant those frightful nursery tales could not
possibly be true. He mentally shook his head, the
wisdom of the Men of the West had declined indeed for
such stories to be repeated and believed about two of
their ancient allies. Eldritch and eerie the Golden
Wood was, and not meant for Men, but there was no
malice or evil sorcery for them to fear.

Indeed the infamous Lady of the Wood had had proved
the most perfect of hostesses welcoming her unexpected
guests with a smile, an apology for their interupted
journey and a mild word of admonishment directed at
her granddaughter, the Lady Arwen. Rumil was clearly
dazzled, his fears quite forgotten.

"You must forgive her, Aunt, you know how impulsive
the Half-Elven can be." Ellenion answered, blue-grey
eyes glinting with amusement.

"I have known full Elves as quick tempered." the
silver haired Lord of Lorien said mildly, with a
sidelong look at his wife.

She looked right back at him. "As have I, my Lord,
among my kin by marriage."

"Myself I always thought it came from the Mortal
side of the family." said the Lady Arwen.

"Oh no," that was Prince Ereinion, "in the
histories of the Elder Days it's always the Elves who
let their tempers lead them into folly."

"All too true." said the Lady Galadriel, a little
grimly.

"What of Turin?" Arwen challenged.

"He was the exception." answered her nephew.

The travellers then joined the Lord and Lady of
Lorien and their granddaughter for a breakfast of
wafers of golden bread and fruits both strange and
familiar.

"And if Aragorn makes good his claim what then?"
the Lord Celeborn asked. "Sauron's reaction to an Heir
of Isildur on the throne of Gondor is like to be
violent."

The princes nodded grim agreement. "Elrond thinks
that may work in our favor," Ellenion explained, "oft
the hasty stroke goes astray, and the Enemy has not
yet had time to fully rebuild his power."

"That is true," said the Lady Galadriel, "but it is
still very great. His Orcs grow in number and the Dark
Men of the South and East are quick return to their
old allegiance."

"Indeed." said Ereinion. "Armegil fears he is
already to strong for us to match him in the field."

"But Elrond disagrees," continued his brother, "he
hopes with Aragorn to rally the Men of the West to the
cause they may, in alliance with the Eldar, defeat the
Dark Lord by attacking before he is secure in his
power."

"A great gamble." the Lord Celeborn frowned. "I
fear my son-in-law forgets we would be fighting not on
a single front - as in the War of the Last Alliance
-but on two."

"Three," Ereinion corrected, "Mordor, Dol Guldur
*and* Angmar."

Celeborn nodded, accepting the correction. "Three
fronts then, we will be spread very thin."

"At least Smaug is dead and there are now kingdoms
of Men and Dwarves to guard the northeast." Ellenion
offered.

"That is true, at least Thranduil need not fear
attack from the north but there is still Dol Guldur."
the Lord of Lorien frowned. "The Men of the River
Vales will stand with us whether there is a High King
in Gondor or not, but even so we will be hard pressed
between the Nazgul in Dol Guldur and the Orcs and
Wargs in the mountains. My fear is Men and Elves alike
will be fully engaged on their seperate fronts and
unable to give aid to each other."

"That is Armegil's belief as well." Ereinion
agreed.

"Yet the Dark Lord will only grow stronger," the
Lady Arwen pointed out, "time is not on our side."

Her grandfather shook his head. "Now or later I
fear this is a war we cannot win, Little One."

"Yet there is a way Sauron may be defeated,"
Ereinion said with calm conviction, "we have not yet
seen it - but we will."

"Elrond believes the Return of the King and the
union of the power of Men with that of the Elves is
the answer." said his brother. "Armegil thinks
differently. He forsees, dimly, the rise of some new
power or unexpected ally."

Galadriel's white brow knit in a slight frown. "I
too have seen strange things in the Mirror. It may be
well to wait, all has not yet been revealed."

"And yet a strong Gondor and renewed Arnor would be
a great strength to the Free Peoples." Cemendur
ventured.

"Indeed," Celeborn agreed, "if it can be achieved
without bringing Sauron's wrath down upon us all."
***********************************************



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In Playlists

Playlist Overview

Last Update: 02 Mar 14
Stories: 10
Type: Reader List
Created By: AngelQueen


Stories that go into the details of the politics behind many of the events of the various Ages.

Why This Story?

An outstanding look at the tangled web of the Third Age's politics - why Gondor rejected Isildur's heirs for a millennium, the loyalties of the Stewards, the fate of the Isildurioni in the North, Elrond's views, etc. Morwen Tindomerel's legendarium is perhaps my favorite AU of all. Brilliant.

 

Story Information

Author: Morwen Tindomerel

Status: Beta

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/05/04

Original Post: 03/22/03

Go to Rangers of the North overview

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Author Playlists
Many Guises and Many Names: An on-going collection of stories that feature Aragorn in another guise (primarily but not exclusively as "Thorongil") as well as stories that include significant reflection or recognition. (C) means the story is connected to others an author has written; (SA) just means stand-alone.