13. Spirit Rekindled
Early in the morning, the first thing Aragorn did was tell a servant to serve breakfast at the great Hall; he was certain that his guests would be hungry. He regretted that he couldn't join them from the start so they could see what arrangements were to be done for today, but his wish to see how Daurir was faring proved stronger. Accompanied by another servant who was holding a tray of food for the Elf, he quickly walked down to the corridors that led to the Houses of Healing and to Daurir's room.
"Daurir?" said Aragorn, knocking at the door.
As his knuckles made contact on the door, however, it slid further with a creaking sound to reveal no one was inside.
Gasping, Aragorn quickly rushed in and looked around. The room seemed tidied up; the nightclothes were neatly folded on the chair and the blanket was placed back on the bed. Passing swiftly by the puzzled servant, he called at a healer.
"Have you seen the patient of this room?" he asked anxiously.
The healer stared at his king for a moment incredulously. "He has left again?" he exclaimed before he could help himself.
Aragorn huffed in dismay. He had got his answer. What was worse, he couldn't afford to lose any time trying to look for Daurir now. He had heard news of Gandalf and the Hobbits approaching to Minas Tirith, whereas Faramir and Éowyn were also coming from Ithilien and both parties were expected at the same day – today.
"Well, he is gone," he finally declared; "but I do not think there is need of worry. We can allow him to go where he pleases this time. Make sure that you keep an eye for him though."
"It will be done as you say, Sire," said the healer.
Nodding and feeling slightly reassured, Aragorn walked to the Great Hall, where he knew he was being expected.
After having breakfast and expressing his wish to accompany Lady Arwen on her way to meet Faramir and Éowyn, Éomer swiftly went down the flight of stairs and found himself out into the courtyard. Aragorn had also assured him that, since there was no time to fix his horse's hooves the previous day, he could take any other horse he wished from the already repaired stable.
What the king of Rohan didn't expect, however, was to see his horse tethered by the forgery. And his surprise only became greater when he looked at the stallion's hooves and discovered that it had brand new petals.
It was then that the sound of bellows puffing and the banging of metals echoed from inside the building. The forgery was operating!
"Gimli," he murmured softly, understanding who could be inside. He patted the horse's neck with a smile, receiving a small nuzzling in return; then walked inside.
"Gimli!" Éomer shouted over the sound of the banging. "Gimli!"
He received no answer. It didn't surprise Éomer though. After all, the raucous was so great that he couldn't possibly be heard. Still, Éomer wanted to say his thanks to the Dwarf.
"Thank you for taking care of my horse, master Dwarf!"
This time the answer was a series of clanks as a hammer struck iron. Éomer couldn't help but smile. When Dwarves worked, they certainly hardly paid attention to anything else.
"Just do not forget yourself working! You said you and Legolas wanted to see Faramir and Éowyn, too!" Éomer added amused; then walked out to saddle his horse.
He never saw Daurir coming from the inner room of the forgery, his hands and face blackened, looking puzzled for he was certain he heard somebody calling; nor did he see him shrugging his shoulders and returning back to his task.
Brego snorted loudly in impatience and Aragorn patted his neck, shushing him gently.
"I see he would rather gallop through the plains then hold still," commented Elrond with a small smile. "This waiting outside the walls has tired him."
"He is a horse of Rohan," Aragorn replied with a sense of pride. He looked at the horizon. "I hope Shadowfax doesn't let his own impatience run away with him and rides ahead of the Hobbits."
"Gandalf will make sure of that, do not fret."
Just then, a soldier came riding to Aragorn and Elrond and informed them that Mithrandir and the Halflings are approaching. Just then, a mighty neigh tore through the air and Brego answered it with a neigh of his own. In less than half an hour, Gandalf appeared on Shadowfax and by his side were a pair of ponies, carrying two familiar persons.
"Welcome, Gandalf. Your presence here brings warmth in my heart," greeted Aragorn cordially.
"And ours doesn't?" piped in Merry, raising an eyebrow in mock annoyance.
"Seems we're not needed here, Merry," seconded Pippin, following suit to his cousin's tease. "Well, since we've escorted Gandalf safely, we can as well turn back." And turning his words into action, he turned his pony in a motion of leaving.
Gandalf, Elrond, and Aragorn laughed heartily at this.
"Peregrin Took, you cannot expect me to enter the city without you two at my side, can you?" asked Gandalf.
"Not after the preparations we made for the most special of our guests," said Aragorn.
Merry and Pippin looked at each other meaningfully, then turned to Aragorn.
"After careful consideration with my friend and cousin here," said Merry, "we've decided to accept your apology and come with you."
"However," added Pippin, "we do expect to be welcomed with quite a handsome luncheon as soon as we get to the Great Hall. Though Gandalf can prove a good companion, he still has the unacceptable habit of stopping only once a day for meals during journeys."
"The table is already set, and the food is waiting for you," replied Aragorn with a big grin.
"Then what are we waiting for?" exclaimed Merry, his face brightening. "It's a shame to leave perfectly good food getting spoiled!"
And with that, both Merry and Pippin urged their ponies onward, while Aragorn, Elrond and Gandalf followed, shaking their heads amused. Soon enough, Elrond and Gandalf had remained behind to share their tidings, whereas Aragorn was riding at the Hobbits' side, hearing tales of what the little ones have been up to ever since they returned to the Shire. As they were headed towards the stables though, Merry and Pippin slackened the ponies' pace and stared at the burned wood in wonder.
"What happened here?" asked Merry in wonder. "Nobody was hurt, I hope?"
"No, be at ease, Merry. It was only a fire which we put under control quickly enough," answered Aragorn.
Just then, the Man froze and looked at the direction of the forgery. Daurir was entering the building, carrying some wooden boards. Though Aragorn was relieved to find him at last, he couldn't help but wonder at the meaning of this. Was Daurir also willing to help repair the damages at the forgery? But the Man was told everything was in working order!
"Who is that?" asked Pippin, also noticing the busy form and staring at it, puzzled. "He is dressed like one of your men, but he's…"
"An Elf, yes," completed Aragorn. "He's called Daurir. And before you ask the question, Master Merry, I will answer now: none of us know what his real name is or where he is from."
"I thought you would have by now." It was Elrond who said this, overhearing the conversation.
"I am afraid not," said Aragorn, turning to the Half-elf. "However, Legolas is quite certain now that Daurir is not from Mirkwood."
"It is still not enough; there are still many Elven realms to be considered."
"I know," said Aragorn with a sigh. "I only hope he will tell us himself when he feels up to it." And with that he dismounted and, after helping down the Hobbits as well, he accompanied them inside, asking them more news about Sam's wife and her pregnancy – the reason neither Frodo nor Sam would attend this year's festivities.
Gandalf and Elrond didn't follow though. They still remained on their horses, looking at Daurir, who was now examining some bars of metal by flicking a finger on them to listen to their sound.
I know what troubles you, Gandalf said then to Elrond – without a word coming out of his lips. His movements; his manners; the way he looks at his surroundings; everything in him makes him different from other Elves you have encountered.
You can feel it too, then? asked Elrond.
Only too clearly, answered Gandalf. In fact, I would be so bold to say that he does not remind me of an Elf at all.
Elrond only stared at Gandalf, something that made the Wizard smile.
I see I am not the only one who reached the same conclusion, he said.
Suddenly, probably because he sensed he was being watched, Daurir cast a glance towards Gandalf and Elrond and then swiftly walked inside. Gandalf was about to comment, when he noticed that Elrond was looking surprised at something.
What is the matter? asked Gandalf.
What of them?
Elrond didn't answer though. Dismounting, he walked inside, soon to be followed by Gandalf. The Half-elf knew what he saw and that had set him thinking.
While Aragorn and Elrond were on their way to welcome the new arrivals on the west side of the White City, Arwen, Legolas, Gimli and Éomer were riding outside the east side of the gates in order to meet Faramir and Éowyn. As soon as they stopped and waited for them, Éomer guided his horse close to Arod, the horse on which both Legolas and Gimli were.
"You did an excellent work on my horse's hooves, master Dwarf," he said with a broad smile. "His gait has never been lighter or swifter."
Gimli stared at Éomer, puzzled. "What are you saying?"
"You did not mend these?" Éomer exclaimed, pointing at the horse's petals.
Exchanging a brief glance with Legolas, Gimli dismounted with a jump and tapped the horse's leg lightly, so he could see the petals.
"It is certainly nice handiwork," he finally said, "but I had nothing to do with it."
"What is amiss?" Arwen asked, overhearing the conversation.
"Nothing serious, lady Arwen," answered Éomer, embarrassed. "It was a misunderstanding. My apologies, master Gimli."
"Do not worry about it, my friend," said Gimli kindly. "I am still surprised though. I was under the impression the forgery would not operate until someone replaced the old blacksmith."
"Perhaps someone has been found?" ventured Legolas to say.
Arwen immediately shook her head. "I would have known about it. Nevertheless, I will talk to Aragorn as soon as we return." She lifted her head, pricking her ears. "That was a horse's neigh."
Éomer and Gimli pricked their own ears as well. "I did not hear anything," the King of Rohan said.
"Yet a horse neighed in greeting," confirmed Legolas, helping Gimli up on Arod.
And indeed, in a matter of moments, Faramir and Éowyn's escort appeared on the horizon.
Ceranos threw the iron bar on the furnace and, while it was getting hot, he put on the table every sword that he could find in the forge and started swinging them one by one to test their balance. Though a couple of them certainly needed a few taps here and there, he decided that most of them were very well-wrought and all he needed to do was sharpen their edges and polish them. He poured some oil in a bowl nearby and, after wetting a piece of cloth with it, he started working. Making sure that he wouldn't miss a spot, he carefully removed any trace of rust and placed each sword against the wall to dry. By the time he had done all that, the iron bar had melted and, grabbing it carefully with a pincer, he poured the hot liquid into the matrix to shape it into a spear.
Just then, another strange sound accompanying the sound of the bellows and the sizzling of the hot liquid reached his ears.
He was whistling.
Well, why not? he thought, a broad smile tugging his lips.
He walked up to the furnace and looked through the small opening to see how the fire was faring. Seeing that the fire was still burning strongly, he reached for his tools and started hammering again. Pricking up his ears, he listened on to the familiar – and so missed – sound of iron being struck and, soon enough, he held up a fine spear point.
He felt his chest swelling with pride. He was forging again! Such was his joy, in fact, that he never realised that the discomfort on his left shoulder was gone, or how strong he felt and full of life. All he knew was that he had started working before the crack of dawn and he had still some work left to do – and he wanted to do even more.
I will have to ask the king to let me inspect the weaponry and the soldiers' swords. And also tell him that he wished to take care of the forge whenever his duties as advisor permitted it. After all, this was what he did best.
It was then that Ceranos remembered something from the previous day. While he wandered around the place, he had chanced upon a room that he could have sworn it had weapons inside; he recalled something looking like a sword when he glimpsed through the half-open door. Perhaps he could go there and have a closer look?
He thought about it for a few moments, and finally reasoned that, if no one seemed to object to his presence in the forgery, he didn't see why anyone would object to his presence in that room.
Making up his mind, he put out the fire at the furnace and cleaned himself; then hurried back to the halls.
He found the room again quite easily. What made him uneasy, however, was to see that the door was shut now. So the room was off limits to intruders? He reached for the handle, looking to his left and right as he did so, not wishing to be caught in the act of doing something that could be considered wrong; and turned it slowly. Relieved he noticed that the door wasn't locked; so, swallowing hard and with his heart pounding as though he was about to uncover a treasure of unspeakable value, he pushed the door open.
As soon as he stepped in, Ceranos found himself in a room that he somehow knew was filled with history. The drapes were drawn, permitting only partial sunlight inside, thus giving the room the air of something old; a bookcase with a few, yet very dusty and battered books occupied the space on the northern side of the wall; and on the eastern one there was a statue of a Hobbit, clothed in real Orcish armour and clothes. But before Ceranos could wonder why would anyone have such things in a realm of Men, his eyes caught sight of the southern wall.
Though Ceranos wasn't of the Elves who could appreciate the art of creating something with materials other than metal or precious stones, he couldn't help but stare at the large tapestry that adorned the wall. For what he saw depicted there filled him with wonder and awe.
It was a battle, a great one at that. Ceranos could distinguish several races with just a brief glance. There were Men of Gondor, bearing the mark of a tree and seven stars on their chest. There were also Men of Rohan, he knew and could recognize the green banner with a galloping white horse on it everywhere. And he was surprised to catch sight of familiar faces in that mayhem, also fighting. He could see the sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir (though Ceranos couldn't really tell who was who in the tapestry); Legolas Thranduilion; Gimli; and, lastly, King Elessar.
Then Ceranos looked at the side of the enemies. He recognised the race of the Orcs instantly, and the sight of a red banner with a black serpent on it meant little to him, though he was aware it belonged to Men of the South. The banner that truly made his blood boil in his veins, however, was the Easterlings' – a black scorpion, sighted so often on those accursed lands, surrounded by yellow, symbol of the desert beyond.
Huffing angrily, he turned his gaze away, and noticed the huge gate on the background. He looked closer, and recognised it for what it was: the Black Gate of the Morannon. The very Gate that led to the land of the Enemy with so many names in every tongue that was ever formed: Gorthaur, Naruzbad, Zigûrun, Dark Lord – Sauron; the one responsible for the accursed War that cost Ceranos his second family and not all.
Ceranos's breathing became shallow and quivering in his attempt to control his emerging wrath and hatred towards the Evil that did this to him; he could feel it. In the end, he punched the tapestry as though trying to throw down the Gate with his own hand, to see it broken and trampled on like he witnessed it on his hard journey back from Rhûn.
Though his knuckles throbbed by the impact his fist made with the wall, he felt better at once. He looked again at his acquaintances and he couldn't help but smile. He no longer just respected them for their courtesy and nobility; he liked them. After all, they had fought against the same evil that he had to face in Erebor, and that alone made him feel connected to them. He hoped they also felt the same way. If anything, he wouldn't be alone then.
He afterwards cast his glance to his right and saw something that lifted his spirits even further: weapons.
Three of them were swords, all up against the wall in a prominent position. He looked at the first two curiously and immediately shook his head. They were plain swords, without engravings on them.
Man-made without a doubt, Ceranos thought. Of all the races, Men were the ones more likely not to be interested in making something beautiful out of metal. After all, to them it only mattered that the weapon served its purpose. The only redeeming quality that Ceranos could see on those two swords was that their blades were sturdy, if not of the best quality.
The third one was better made, yet still nothing special about it but for its handle; for it was quite symmetrical and two horse heads were engraved on it, enamelled with gold. A sword of Rohan to be wielded by a lord, decided Ceranos approvingly, and let it rest against the wall reverently.
Yet the sword that intrigued him to no end was the fourth one. It was a two-handed sword that, though it was forged to resemble the swords of Men, its metal was much lighter in colour and, moreover, its design was old. In spite of that, however, its blade was perfectly clear and untouched by time.
That was Elven work, Ceranos was certain of it. But that was not all. Looking back at the tapestry, he saw the same sword on Elessar's hands, something that made him regard the weapon with a new sense of approval.
You served your master well. He had found more about the particular Man now and it only made him think better of him by the minute. After all, someone with such friendship towards the Elven and Dwarven race, well-versed to the Elven lore and ways and even married to an Elven woman could not possibly be an ordinary Man. More so if one considered the fact that this king of Men seemed to truly care about what would probably seem to anybody else a lost cause and did so without expecting anything in return. That he tried to befriend him, a broken, cynical Elf.
You are so much like Aragorn, Elessar King, thought Ceranos with a small smile. I will be honoured to offer my services, the same way I would be honoured to serve him, had I the chance. Which reminded him that he had yet to ask Elrond or his sons about Aragorn.
No more delays, he decided. He would look quickly at the last weapon in the room and then he would try to find any of those three and also a way to ask them.
The fourth weapon was no sword. In fact, it was the last thing he expected in a city of Men, for it was a double-headed axe, the Dwarves' favoured weapon. Still, its size alone showed that it wasn't meant for a Dwarf at all, something that Ceranos considered odd at first. After all, who but himself would carry such a weapon?
The next instant he was gasping as a terrible suspicion crept in his mind, and he quickly grabbed the axe. Awestruck, he read the Dwarven runes on it:
Made by my wielder to slay his foes and mine.
It was his! But how…?
The Elf turned at the sound of the name, to see Elrond at the entrance of the room, followed by his sons.
"Or, should I say," Elrond continued in a soft tone, "Ceranos Orcbane?"
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.