5. Family Advice
Aragorn's shirt was off, and as he worked down the furrow with his spade, he felt the sun warming his back. Swimming in the river with his cousins, helping Uncle Harwilthel with the sweaty work of fence repairs in the livestock pens, and digging under the noonday sun in Aunt Wyorven's garden had baked him as brown one of the Haradrim sketched in Elrond's books. He rose and stretched his back, amazed that such different muscles were used for bending to a garden and lifting a sword. He stood straight, easing the ache, and watched Deesch several rows away weeding young lettuces. He and Aunt Wyorven were planting late summer squashes in mounds.
"I hear you are a bit temperamental." Wyorven said, from the ground beside him. Aragorn looked startled.
"I'm sorry, Aunt. Have I done aught wrong?" Her unanticipated comment staggered him and he felt his blood begin to rise. He knew she caught his chilly tone.
"Nay, not here. You've been nothing but the kind lord and gentleman here." She chuckled, "unless you count Radarth, and I hold that was quite gentlemanly, or arguing with your mother, which is expected from one of your years. However, I hear you've made quite a spectacle of yourself at home." Aragorn pondered this: he could hotly deny it, making out his mother to be a liar, or he could have an infamous tantrum and show his aunt some of the vileness he could unleash. He sucked in a big breath and it occurred to him simply to admit his fault.
"I have a horrible temper!" he confided. "One that I find hard to control. One that sometimes frightens me with its fierceness." She smiled squinting up at the boy.
"That was nicely done. At your age, I would have thrown the spade and been in a stomping rage half way to the woods by now if I'd been so accused. You get the temper from this family. I was a terror as a girl and I'll not tell tales about others, but some were worse." Aragorn dropped to his knees and began to dig again.
"Aunt, you are one of the most even tempered people I know; almost as patient as my father—foster-father is."
"I wasn't always; and neither was he. One day when I was about your age, my good friend angered me so badly with an off-handed comment, I threw what was in my hand at him. It could have been a cup or a cat, it didn't matter when I was enraged. It happened to be my hunting dagger. Several stitches in his thigh taught me immediate control. And you must learn it. To be a hot-headed commander, to lead men into battle without control, means the death of them." She dug another mound. "On a less grand scale, unless you rein in your temper, you will cause pain to your loved ones throughout your life." She looked back down at her digging. "But you already know that." He nodded, remembering the turmoil left behind at Imladris and he still simmered with anger at his mother.
"And how does one do that? Control his temper?" he asked quietly, making patterns in the dirt with his spade tip.
"You must find what works for you. I had to cause myself to be aware before I went off into a blind rage. I'd fix my gaze on a spot far off and bite the inside of my mouth. Many's the time I had to spit out blood, but eventually I could just look off and it would calm me enough to rationally see the situation." He smiled at her.
"Thank you, Aunt. I shall try." Aragorn went back to digging in the mounds in the hot sun.
The House was deserted. Aragorn, comfortably draped over a chair, was still enthralled with the book of Numenor. Gilraen and Wyorven had gone to the woods to gather herbs. Deesch and his sister had ridden south to visit a newly wedded friend of Amarië's before she left for the North again. At dawn, Deesch rode out proudly on Swallow, promising to care well for him and Aragorn whispered Elvish words of caution to his great stallion not to dump the boy into the mud for any reason. The grey had flicked his black-tipped ears at his master at if insulted at such a suggestion. So, now Aragorn was alone in the house and enjoying the solitude. For someone who had spent much of his childhood alone, the cousins could at times be overwhelming.
It was mid afternoon when his uncle Harwilthel, smelling strongly of his silky-haired goats, clumped in, and sprawled in an opposing chair. He eyed his nephew who had greeted him cordially and gone back to his book. The older man pulled out his pipe and tamped it. Realizing the fire was unlit so he was without a light, he simply stuck it between his teeth and sucked on the end.
"Well, lad." he began, "have you decided if you are truly Dúnedain?" Aragorn raised a questioning brow.
"My parents are, Uncle---"
"But in your heart, you're not sure if you are?" Harwilthel waited through the silence.
"I am many things." Aragorn said quietly, shutting the book.
"Don't start with that Elven logic on me! I asked a direct question." Harwilthel's voice took on the edge of the commander he once was. There was another prolonged space of silence. Aragorn sat upright, fixing his uncle with his direct gaze.
"Uncle," he finally began, "the people here all seem to be waiting, paused in time for something, even though they go about their lives, doing common things."
"Aye." Harwilthel moved the pipe in his mouth. "They are waiting: waiting for their Chieftain. When he comes, they will follow him in peace or war. They have been waiting for a time, and although it may not appear so, they grow impatient. Some in the North have already bandied about the idea of electing a new leader. It would be a pity if the one they wait for never came--if they had to make do with a lesser man." Aragorn shifted uneasily and looked away into the cold fireplace.
"Maybe the one they wait for is a lesser man. Maybe he doesn't want to be Chieftain," the young man said softly. He looked at his hands. "Maybe---maybe he fears he can't---won't---be able to lead his people. Maybe he fears the weakness of his ancestors is his weakness too." Harwilthel smiled at the bowed head of his nephew.
"You're well on the path to being a good leader if you ask yourself those questions, laddie. You've a winning way about you and no conceit of who you are or how you've been raised. The Rangers will follow you, never fear. I would." Aragorn smiled back weakly, not sure if he could give any credence to his uncle's words. Harwilthel threw back his head and laughed.
"You're polite but you believe such command advice is a waste of words from an old goat farmer, eh?" Aragorn colored; his uncle had read his mind. "When you meet Halbarad, ask him of me.
"Many will say you are your father's son, but I see your mother in you. I knew her when she was a girl, of course. All fiery temper and stubbornness! She could curse a blue streak to your grandfather's dismay!"
"My mother!" Aragorn was stunned. In all his life, he had never seen his mother be anything but pleasant; there was nothing that displeased her except, he felt, perhaps her son.
"She wasn't always your mother or the wife of the Chieftain." Harwilthel also now stared into the fireplace and into the past. "Gillie was the best bow hunter I ever trained. She kept Eagles' Rest well supplied with meat and the place running smoothly, giving me full reports whenever I rode in." He mused on that a bit, remember a past that found him in the saddle, commanding the protection of the Great South Road most seasons. Aragorn's eyes were bright, wanting to hear more stories of the past, of this girl who was so like him. "I once had such a talk with her as we are having now. She was reluctant then to give up her life to take up another, even though she loved the man." He paused as if reliving the time. "Aye, how she loved him! How they loved each other!"
"Please tell me." Aragorn asked, realizing for the first time he knew nothing of his parents' relationship and found he wanted deeply to know.
"What I was about to say perhaps would not be proper for the son's ears." He chuckled. "They met and their attraction was so sudden and so intense, Dirhael feared the Dúnadan's intentions might not be honorable. Arathorn was nothing if not honorable which I vouchsafed to my brother. The day your parents wed, she stood in the glade in a green dress with tiny white roses in her hair and spoke her vows to him. Afterward, he carried her away after across the pommel of his saddle on that great black warhorse he rode." Harwilthel's eyes held a far away look. "I remember those wild roses in her hair, and the sun on that horse's ebony hide, and your father's booming laugh." Aragorn could see the picture in his mind, the two newly wedded, the whole flock of Gilraen's relatives, there were more then, assembled on the lawn, and as they rode north, his father's men mounted and riding behind, gray cloaks billowing. Harwilthel interrupted his vision.
"'Twas heartbreaking four years later when Lord Elladan rode in here, mad with grief, carrying the body. Four years is all the time they had, and then she blamed herself after dreaming of what would happen and not telling him," he broke from this tangent, "but you don't want to hear sad stories." Harwilthel got up and went back out to his goats, leaving his nephew alone with the ghosts he had roused.
The young man sat stunned, looking inward. He did want to hear more. His mother and his father were in love! He had never imagined it, never thought to ask, assumed it had been a state marriage, a matching of the right bloodlines to produce the right heir. In all their years at Imladris, his mother had never spoken of his father, and he---he had never asked.
Gilraen separated the herbs into piles. She would rinse them in the pan of spring water and let them sit overnight. In the morning, she planned to tie the bundles and hang them for drying. The green smell soothed her: refreshing mints, the spice of the hyssop, and pungent garlic stems. She noticed the black soil from the forest floor had drawn dark crescents under her nails. They send her mind back to a time when blood, horse sweat, and soil constantly stained her hands. That was long ago, before she became such a grand lady.
"You've certainly harvested quite a crop!" The man's figure standing in the doorway was backlit by the setting sun. She blinked twice before she realized it was her son. He came to the table and deftly helped wash and spread the herbs.
"Where did you and my father meet?" He asked the question casually.
"At the annual Gathering at Lake Evendim, or rather, in the lake." Gilraen blushed, recalling the day. Aragorn saw her cheeks redden.
"Tell me." She shook her head. "Please," he begged. She looked up at him and wondered if her very proper son would be scandalized.
"Well…I was bathing…I had found a secluded spot away from the camp and thought I was alone." She looked down at her hands again. "I was singing and being foolish. When I looked up, your father was sitting by my clothes."
"The water must have been like ice!" She nodded.
"I nearly froze because he would not leave. He asked me to sing again and I refused!" Gilraen smiled. "There I was chin deep in the lake in only my skin arguing with the Dúnadan and he was calmly talking to me as if we sat over tankards in an inn. Your uncle finally came looking for him about some matter and he went away. My teeth were chattering when I finally climbed out of the water." Her face was soft as she remembered that day. "He'd left his cloak for me at the water's edge." Aragorn leaned over and kissed her cheek.
"Thank you." His smile lit his eyes. As he reached the doorway, he turned.
"Everything will be alright, Mother." She saw a softness in his gaze that for a moment made her heart lurched because he looked so like his father.
"Yes, I know, Estel nin."
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.