Many Guises and Many Names
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Rangers of the North: 23. The Lord Aragorn's Answer
Aragorn came to a full stop in the doorway
surveying his young nephews with both amusement and
"Don't say it." Ereinion begged.
Aragorn's eyebrows lifted slightly. "Our uncle's
idea I take it?"
"Who else?" asked Ellenion with overtones of
Ecthelion looked interested. "Ah yes, perhaps now
at last I may learn the name of this famous uncle of
yours, my Lord Aragorn?"
He turned to the Steward, smiling slightly. "Elrond
Half-Elven, twin brother of Elros Tar-Minyatur and
sometime Herald to the Last High King of the Noldor."
Ecthelion blinked and Aragorn's smile deepened,
enjoying the reaction. "Elrond has been fostering and
educating Isildur's Heirs since Valandil's time. Me he
had almost from infancy as my father died when I was
"Slain by Orcs." Ecthelion said heavily,
Aragorn nodded. "As I told you." looked quizzically
round. All four Men just stood there, looking back at
him. Clearly no one, including Ecthelion, was going to
move or sit until he did so. Choosing a window seat
for himself Aragorn gestured, inviting the others to
help themselves to the benches and straight backed
chairs lining the walls, then turned to the
Councillor. "How did you come to find my people,
Cemendur? They would certainly have avoided you if
The Man smiled wryly. "They did indeed. We first
heard of the Rangers from an innkeeper in Bree. You
know Bree, my Lord?"
"Very well. So it was old Butterbur who put you on
Cemendur nodded. "He tried to point out three
Rangers at the inn but they left, quite precipitously,
before we could lay eyes on them."
"Not that it did us any good." Ellenion told his
"Indeed not." Cemendur agreed. "Master Butterbur's
description, and the sudden disappearance of your
kinsmen, my Lord, wetted my interest. I decided to
continue north to Fornost in the hope of encountering
some of these 'Rangers'."
"Which you did." said Aragorn.
The Councillor nodded. "Your grace's cousin, the
Lord Belecthor, decided to show himself to try to
convince us our quest was in vain."
Aragorn visualized Belecthor, with his kingly
height and Numenorean features, denying the continued
existence of Dunedain in the North and grimaced. "I
take it he failed."
"They were heading straight for Gwathlad," Ellenion
told him, a little defensively, "uncle felt seeing a
holding would be more dangerous to our secret than
Cemendur shrugged: "But of course the moment we
laid eyes on The Lord Belecthor we knew our quest had
succeeded." to Ecthelion. "His grace's kinsman bears
a striking resemblance to statues of the Old Kings. It
was impossible for him to be anything but a Dunedain,
and of noble blood though we did not guess at first
Aragorn suddenly registered the Councillor's use of
the kingly style when refering to himself and frowned
a little in surprise.
"The Lord Belecthor would have sent us right back
to Gondor," Cemendur continued, "but happily Prince
Armegil chanced to be at Gwathlad and he agreed to
hear my embassage." smiled at Aragorn. "And once we
had seen him, my Lord, there could be no doubt at all
that we had found not only your people but your kin."
Aragorn smiled ruefully in return, explained to
Ecthelion. "Armegil is my father's brother, there is a
very strong resemblance." raised his eyebrows
questioningly. "And what exactly was the substance of
There was a moment's silence. As it became plain
Ecthelion didn't intend to answer the question
Cemendur stepped in. "Our instructions were to seek
out, and if possible establish an alliance with our
surviving kin. Your grace's sword has been of
inestimable value to Gondor, the Steward hoped to gain
more such aid and in return to make amends for many
centuries of neglect."
"I see." Aragorn said softly, eyes on Ecthelion who
would not meet them. "And what did my Uncle Armegil
say to this proposal?"
"A gracious but firm refusal." Cemendur admitted,
continued to Ecthelion. "The Prince explained the
Dunedain of the North had gone into hiding at the end
of the Witch Wars that the enemy might think them
destroyed and spare the simple folk under their
protection further harm. In secrecy and disguise they
have continued to defend their own, including Gondor."
"Arminas." the Steward said flatly.
"And others we have known naught of." Cemendur
agreed. "Prince Armegil believes an open alliance with
Gondor would call down the Enemy's wrath on both
realms to their ruin." looked again at Aragorn. "We
accepted his judgment and agreed to keep silent. But
the Lord Elrond at Rivendell took a very different
"I am well acquainted with my uncle's opinions in
the matter." Aragorn assured him drily.
"Forgive me, my Lord, but the Lord Steward is not,"
Cemendur told him respectfully, continued to
Ecthelion. "Elrond of Rivendell made it clear the only
way to establish the alliance you desire, my Lord, was
for Gondor to amend her errors of old and accept her
rightful king. Unlike Prince Armegil he believes that
with the race of Men united behind the King of the
West and allied to the remaining Eldar Sauron may be
Aragorn shook his head. "My uncle is over
"That was also the opinion of the Lord of Lorien,"
Cemendur admitted. "Like Prince Armegil he forsaw
great danger in any such union."
"The Lord of Lorien!" the Steward echoed in
astonishment and some alarm.
"We passed through the Golden Wood on our return
journey." Cemendur explained. "Its lord is Celeborn of
Doriath, our ally of old and distant kin to the Lord
Aragorn. Lorien is not a land for Men, but its evil
repute is quite undeserved. We met with naught but
courtesy and kindness there."
"My Uncle Celeborn has fought the Shadow through
three ages of the World," Aragorn said quietly, "his
judgement is not to be lightly discarded."
"We found also at Rivendell, your grace's Steward
and Regent for the North the Lady Ellemir." Cemendur
told him. "She, upon hearing both our embassage and
the Lord Elrond's advice, declared herself unable to
make a decision that belonged to your grace alone, and
urged us to return to Gondor to make presentation to
"As you have done." said Aragorn. "But where is
Hurin? Safe I hope."
"Quite safe, my Lord." Cemendur assured him
quickly. "Hurin chose to take service with the Lady
your grandmother in requital for the service your
grace has given Gondor."
"I see." Aragorn said thoughtfully, eyeing his
nephews. "I thank you, my Lord Cemendur, both for your
pains and your silence. But now I must discuss these
matters privately with the Lord Steward."
"Yes," Ecthelion agreed, "leave us, Cemendur, and
see that the Lords Ereinion and Ellenion are suitably
housed if you would."
Rising the Councillor bowed to the air between
Steward and King, before ushering the two younger Men
There was a long silence, finally broken by Aragorn
"Why, Ecthelion, after twenty years this sudden
interest in my origins?"
"Because, my Lord, I have not much longer to live
and feared what might happen between you and my son
after I am gone."
Aragorn shook his head. "Denethor is not my friend
but he would never do me actual harm without cause,
which I will not give him."
Ecthelion smiled crookedly. "The harm I feared
would be entirely to himself. My son has not the gift
for making himself loved which you, my Lord, have in
abundance. No, he would not harm you but he would
slight and insult you as he always has and though you
might bear such patiently your friends and followers
Aragorn thought of Hirluin, his lieutenant, and any
number of others and sighed. "Yes, I see, even without
my will there would be trouble. But you need not fear,
Ecthelion, I must leave Gondor soon. Already I have
lingered far longer than is wise."
Ecthelion blinked. "Leave?" he echoed, a little
blankly, cautiously: "Then you do not intend to lay
your claim before the Council?"
"Certainly not." Aragorn answered quietly. "Gondor
cannot afford a second Kinstrife, not with Sauron on
her borders. And you and I both know there are many
who would never accept Isildur's Heir as King."
The Steward looked at him levelly. "Fewer than you
might think, my Lord."
"But enough." Neither Man said Denethor's name
aloud but it lay unspoken between them. "We cannot
risk civil war in Gondor. Not when she is all that
stands between Sauron and the West."
"No." Ecthelion agreed. Was it relief that clouded
his face or disappointment, or some strange
combination of both? "And of course you are eager to
return to your own people."
"The Gondorim too are my people," Aragorn replied
softly, "and I promise you I will never forget it."
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