I’ll spin you a yarn
A tale that is frequently told.
Of an evil ring and its fellowship
And of Elessar’s kingdom of old.
The minstrel’s voice finished its song, drawing his audience to him in the lord’s hall. Only some of the children gathered in a semi-circle around him, as the adults considered themselves too old to listen to a minstrel’s fancies. A brief frown crossed the minstrel’s face as he saw the large crowd that refused to listen, but then a smile wreathed his face as he turned to the children in front of him.
“Have any of you heard the Song of Elessar?” his voice was soft, musical, toned exactly right to draw his listeners in but not attract the attention of any others.
All around the circle, heads shook. None of them had.
The minstrel seemed surprised. “None of you have heard of Middle Earth’s greatest king?” he demanded.
One brave little girl spoke up. “Where’s Middle Earth? Is that where the fairies live?”
The minstrel smiled sadly. “You live in Middle Earth, child.” He sighed, and suddenly seemed much older. “Would you like to hear of this king?” he said quietly.
The children nodded eagerly.
The minstrel’s voice lifted in song, and the children’s eyes grew misty as he swept them away to a not-so-distant land.
A few hours later, the children were disappointed to hear the story end. The ending was sad – it didn’t stop where most stories did, with the prince marrying the princess and riding off to live happily ever after. No, this story went on to tell of the king’s death and the departure of his immortal friends from Middle Earth. More than one face had a tear trickling down it as they heard of his bride giving up her immortality to fulfill her love.
After the story was finished, the minstrel sat there, staring off into space as though he could see the scenes he had just described. Pain clouded his eyes, and he bowed his head under the brunt of it.
Once it was obvious there would be no more, most of the children began to drift away, but two remained. Thye and Quen, twin sister and brother, were more than just a little curious about this storyteller. While most minstrels did get into their tales, they never grew as emotional as this one.
Patiently, the twins waited for the man to lift his head. When he remained in that position for a while longer, finally Thye spoke up.
“Excuse me, sir, but do you know anymore stories of Elessar and Arwen?” She said softly. The minstrel’s head lifted.
“That was their tale. I could tell you of their meeting, but it would not be the adventure you expect.” He looked away for a moment. “Nor would your parents appreciate me telling you the forbidden tales. I have been banished from more than one hall on that account.”
Quen was confused. “Forbidden? Why would this story be forbidden? It’s just a fairy tale, isn’t it?”
“No, child, it is more than that. It happened, no matter how much these people would like to forget it. The land has been kingless for too long for the people to want to hear of the golden age of kings.” His gaze became dreamy, and he spoke in a sing-song voice:
“In all the hours of gloom
My soul was rapt away
I dreamt I stood by a marble tomb
Where royal corpses lay.”
Thye shivered. “That’s morbid.” She hesitated. “So, are all of Isildur’s Heirs dead? Is that what you meant?”
“No, not all. One still lives. He has no interest in kingship, however.” He sighed. “The people want no king. Apparently, the people need no king. He honors the people’s wishes.”
“So you know him?” Quen demanded eagerly.
“Aye, I know him. I know him well. His name is Teril.” He grinned unexpectedly. “Not his real name, of course. He never uses his real name for fear of being recognized as part of the forbidden stories.”
“What’s his real name?” The children breathed as one.
“Aragorn. He was named for the first king after the War of the Ring,” the minstrel said. “Not the best name in these times. Too recognizable.”
Thye frowned. “How can it be recognized if no one knows the stories?”
“Some know them. Mainly those who try to keep them from being told. Those are the ones he has to avoid most of all.”
“What would they do if they caught him?” Quen said softly, halfway afraid to know.
“Stop him from telling the story in any way possible. Mainly, cut out his tongue. If he resists – ” He hesitated. “There are other ways to ensure silence.”
Thye was quiet, thinking. “Where did you meet him?” She asked finally.
“I’ve known him since I was a child. We were good friends.” A faint smile touched his lips, showing that he was not telling all.
Thye rolled her eyes and plopped to the floor next to him. “Why don’t you just tell us the truth? You’re Teril. It’s obvious.”
The minstrel’s smile, for the first time, seemed happy, though slightly restrained. “Really? How do you know?”
“It’s obvious. You’ve known him since childhood, you know how he feels about different subjects, and you know his real name. You said yourself he never uses it.”
“You’re a smart girl.” The smile vanished from the minstrel’s face. “You won’t tell anyone, will you?” He demanded.
“Of course not.” Thye smiled comfortingly, then sobered. “You said what would happen if you were caught. I wouldn’t wish that on any man.”
Quen broke in. “If you’re king, why don’t you take the throne?”
The minstrel’s eyes bore into him. “Even if I could muster the troops necessary to make a bid for a non-existent throne, I wouldn’t. Don’t you know the civil war that would cause? I will not have the blood of my people on my hands.”
“But what if the people suffer more because you’re not there than because you are?” Quen demanded.
The minstrel’s eyes turned pointedly to the merry crowd as he recited:
“They thought the tide of grief would flow
Unchecked through future years;
But where is all their anguish now,
And where are all their tears?”
Quen threw up his arms in frustration. “Do you always recite poetry at awkward times?”
The minstrel’s smile was unperturbed. “Only when it suits my purposes.” He glanced at the crowd again. “What makes you think they need my help? They are more content without it. And I have heard no rumors of any evil that would require a king to overcome it.”
“Do you think only of yourself? The Aragorn of your story would not be so selfish.” Quen spat.
The minstrel only sang softly:
“Play with the scented flower,
The young trees supple bough –
And leave my human feelings
In their own course to flow.”
Thye laid a hand on her brother’s arm to still his outburst. “Quen, he has a point. What good would a king do when the people are happy as they are? Let the petty lords have their peace and power. Better that than an all-out war for a throne that has been gone for centuries.”
Quen looked at her uncertainly. “You think so too?” He hesitated. He did not like to be at odds with his twin on anything. The boy sighed. “I do see your point. I guess I just like the old stories too much. I’d like to have lived in that time.” He flushed. “That probably sounded incredibly stupid.”
“No, it didn’t. I feel the same,” the minstrel murmured. “It was a dangerous time, but a good one. The elves still kept parts of Middle Earth carefree, and the world was just unpredictable enough to be interesting.” A smile broke out on his face. “Speaking of interesting, would you like to hear the story of a rather remarkable little hobbit?”
Quen and Thye glanced at each other. “Will this have Aragorn in it?” Thye asked.
“Only in that he will be telling the story,” the minstrel laughed. “This is the story of how the ring came to Bilbo so that he could give it to Frodo.”
Quen settled on the floor next to his sister and raised expectant eyes to the minstrel. “We will listen,” he said, and his sister nodded.
The minstrel’s lilting voice began, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…….”
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.