Elrond stepped forward and faced the surprised Elf before him.
"For that is your name, is it not, young one?"
The answer came in the form of a weak nod. How…? asked Ceranos, his widened eyes never leaving Elrond.
"I knew there was something out of place about you from the moment we met," answered he solemnly. "Your face was Elven, yet nothing else was. Much like another Elf that a Man by the name of Aragorn, whom I raised, told me about. Yes, I remember the tale – it is required of me to remember things if I am to be the Lord of Imladris and a healer. In spite of my suspicions, however, I could not determine anything for certain, for your heart could have changed because of your slavery. After all, it would not be the only thing that changed on you – within and without," Elrond's hand reached for Ceranos's short hair, a sad expression on his face. "Then today, finally, I chanced to look into your eyes."
It was then that Elrohir stepped forward as well, holding a mirror in his hand. He placed it before Ceranos's eyes, and all three Half-elves watched him gape in wonder, for the colour of his eyes was no longer black. Though his eyes could still be considered dark, a shade of green was indeed brightening them.
"To be perfectly honest, however, only when I saw you just now with that axe in your hands I knew who you could be."
Ceranos didn't attempt any answer. He had remained as though frozen, touching the mirror, then his own face.
That is, until he turned on his heel and went to the window.
"It is a strange fate," Elrond said then. "You delivered safely one whom I came to consider a son, and now you delivered safely my daughter."
Though Ceranos didn't turn, the news interested him, because he had pricked up his ears. It was clear that he wasn't aware of this.
"Yes. Arwen Úndomiel, the queen of this realm, is my daughter," Elrond confirmed solemnly. "And I thank you for helping her, Ceranos, though delayed this thanks comes."
Only then did the shorthaired Elf turn, and he was sadly pointing at himself and shaking his head.
"Are you trying to say that you are no longer that Elf?" asked then Elrond, walking up to him and clasping his shoulder. "It is in your hand to become him again, if you truly wish it."
Ceranos heaved a sigh; then he mouthed and signalled his words.
Everything I knew and loved that defined me as Ceranos Orcbane is no more. Therefore, that Elf is no more either.
"What of Aragorn?" Elrohir then asked, genuinely puzzled.
Ceranos shrugged. He will only live in my memories. For is he not dead, the blood of his race betraying him?
The Half-elves looked at each other surprised, and the twins came closer as well.
"Ceranos," Elladan said slowly, looking into the Elf's eyes. "Aragorn is alive."
Ceranos looked at Elladan incredulously, his shock clear on his face. Clearly it was the last thing he expected to hear.
Elladan cast a brief glance at Elrohir and his father, a sly smile forming on his lips, before facing Ceranos again.
"I can take you to him."
Though he was still dazed, Ceranos nodded and made a gesture with his hand that clearly signified: Go ahead. I will follow. And so both Elladan and Ceranos quickly walked out.
As soon as the two had disappeared out of sight, Elrohir shook his head.
"I hope Elladan will be careful on how he will tell Ceranos about Aragorn. Ceranos has already learned too many shocking news at so short period of time to bear my brother's love for drama," he said to Elrond with a smirk.
"I do not think there is a reason for worry. If anything, I think Ceranos will be gladdened to see someone he knew from the past," Elrond assured his son with a sad smile. "His heart needs it."
Elrohir nodded a bit solemnly. "It is a sad fate. We all fought the same Evil; we won; and now, every year, we celebrate our victory over it. Yet he was of the defeated and the anniversary of joy is to him an anniversary of sorrow." He looked at the direction that Elladan and Ceranos took. "There is something troubling me though."
Elrohir faced his father. "When we were Elflings, you had told us during our tutoring that Dwarves had developed a sign language called Iglishmêk. Is it not possible that the signs he used just now could be that language?"
"If it is, he must be using very simple gestures so we, who are not of the Dwarven kindred, can understand him," Elrond said.
"And yet," Elrohir said then, "why did he not use Iglishmêk when Gimli was nearby? He would have been glad to find someone who would be able to converse with, even in such a way. And Gimli would be able to translate the gestures to us."
"Elrohir," Elrond said, "now you are trying to find answers only Ceranos will be able to tell you of. For only he can tell you how apprehensive he must have felt among people that he didn't know, or embarrassed and, yes, even afraid. Gimli is a Dwarf, yet what other reasons did Ceranos have in trusting him? His captivity hurt Ceranos in more ways than it is visible." Both Elves walked out of the room. "Know this, however. I am quite certain that he now regrets that he did not open himself up earlier, and he will try to make amends for it in the days to come. Did you not see his eyes?"
"I did. There was warmth in them when he looked at us."
Elrond smiled to hear the correct answer. "And hopefully this warmth will become friendship through Aragorn, for he will wish to befriend the people who are Aragorn's friends."
"It will be well if that happens. So far my impressions about his person were only good and I would like to befriend him, too. And I am certain Elladan would want that as well."
Elrond placed a shoulder over his son, his smile broadening. "That gladdens my heart. And if Arwen, Legolas, Gimli and all the others think the same way – which I have reasons to believe they do – then Ceranos will never be alone again."
"I hope so. I truly do."
And they walked towards Aragorn's office, where they knew Elladan and Ceranos were heading.
After escorting the Hobbits and Gandalf to their quarters, Aragorn was catching up with some paper work in his office. At the sound of the door creaking open, he lifted his eyes to see Arwen standing at the threshold. Aragorn was about to greet her with a big smile, when he noticed that her expression was quite troubled.
"What is amiss?" he asked, concerned. "Has the party of Faramir and Éowyn not arrived yet?"
"They have arrived," Arwen answered. "They have already been shown to their rooms."
"Then what is the matter?"
Arwen locked her gaze on her husband. "Were you aware that the forge has acquired a blacksmith?"
Aragorn's face must have shown how surprised he was at the question, because Arwen's next words were: "You were not."
"I did not even put up a notification that the court was in need of one! Who could have known? And, more importantly, who would have taken up this task without my permission?"
"Nevertheless, someone mended the petals of Éomer's horse. When I asked, the guards confirmed that they heard banging sounds within the forgery."
"But the only one in there was Daurir," said Aragorn thoughtfully. And now the only logical conclusion that Aragorn could reach was that it was Daurir who operated the forge after all. The Elf had some explaining to do, that was for certain.
Just then, the door opened again and Elladan walked in, followed close behind by the Elf in question. Yet any question that had formed in Aragorn's mind vanished at once, for he saw something that angered him deeply.
"Why do your hands hold a thing that is not yours to claim?" he asked slowly, his eyes locked on the axe that Daurir was holding.
Daurir glared back at Aragorn in disbelief, his hands closing around the axe even more tightly; then he glowered at Elladan. He only mouthed two words. A jest?
"No jest," Elladan assured Daurir, a half-smile tugging his lips.
The short-haired Elf looked back at Aragorn; then at Elladan; and, shaking his head, he started walking out. Elladan, however, clasped his hand on Daurir's shoulders, stopping him thus from leaving.
"Elladan, what is the meaning of this?" asked Aragorn, not understanding.
"Look into each other's eyes, and you will both find out. For if I am to simply tell you, you would not believe me."
"Elladan, what are you trying to say?" asked then Arwen.
All Elladan did was prod her a little further away.
"Let them be for a while and you will see," he whispered.
Finally, Aragorn decided to do what Elladan suggested to him, though he felt he wasn't in the mood to play games. He looked at Daurir's eyes, and soon the stare was returned.
It was then that Aragorn noticed it. Daurir looked different for some reason. His stance was more confident and his expression prouder than their last encounter, that was for certain; but that was not all. His lines of care had smoothed further away, thus showing how much younger Daurir was. As for his eyes, they were far brighter, reflecting the life within that was starting to awake once more; the blackness in them was fading.
Aragorn took a few steps back, wondering at the recovery of the Elf and, more by chance than anything else, his eyes drifted at the axe again.
The realisation almost stunned him.
Daurir was holding the axe with both hands in a manner that resembled Gimli's; in a manner that resembled any Dwarf; in the manner of an Elf who…
"But it cannot be."
Daurir raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"They told me you had died!" Aragorn exclaimed.
Now it was Daurir's turn to take a few steps back. He was clearly thinking that the Man was going mad.
"Ceranos, it is I. Aragorn."
Daurir stopped immediately, thus giving Aragorn time to prove himself.
"We met two months before Durin's Day, the greatest celebration of the Dwarves; I was travelling to Rivendell and you to Nogrod. We had decided to go through the Mines of Moria because the High Pass was blocked; you saved me when I was captured by Orcs; and when we were about to part, I promised you I would visit you at your homeland." Aragorn cursed inwardly to see Daurir's – no, Ceranos's – expression was unreadable. What more was he supposed to say for Ceranos to believe him?
"Before we parted, you had also asked me as a favour not to watch you go, for you feared that, if I did, we would never see each other again. For two years ever since I was told of your death during the War of the Ring I had thought it ironic that we would not see each other, though it was a favour I granted you. But now…" he faltered and exasperation washed through him. "Why can you not see it?"
The short-haired Elf remained as though frozen, his eyes locked on the Man for many long moments; then walked cautiously to him. His hands reached for Aragorn's face and pushed back the Man's lines of care. And, all of a sudden it would seem, Aragorn felt Ceranos's hands trembling, and the Elf's eyes were widened in shock.
"You see it now, do you not?"
Aragorn had barely finished his sentence when Ceranos had wrapped his arms around him in a tight embrace.
"Ceranos, I cannot breathe," Aragorn said, yet he was now returning the embrace with a great smile on his lips. Valar, he thought his heart would burst with joy. How could this come to pass? How did Ceranos escape death and was now before him?
Then he felt all joy flee from him, for he then realised how: through pain, torment, humiliation and, above all, grief. So many things were making sense now. Why no one seemed to know where the Elf called Daurir was from; his dream; who was the long gone nephew and the Elf's words of his life being already "too little." And now the tale of that Elf, which turned out to be the tale of someone close in Aragorn's heart, pained the Man the more.
Aragorn's hands felt the black hair, short as it was; he recalled the Elf's distrust in everything and everyone; his violence and cold-bloodedness; and before he could help it, his mind's eye drifted to other, older memories of an ever-laughing Ceranos, noble and kind-hearted.
Too late he registered that unshed tears were stinging his eyes, threatening to fall.
"What did they do to you?" he asked softly, before helping himself.
A talon-like tightening of Ceranos's grip on him, shuddering shoulders against his body frame and a series of choked sobs were the only answer Aragorn got, making the Man's heart contract violently in sorrow. He tried to gently shush his friend; he tried to tell him comforting words that everything would be all right, that he wasn't alone anymore, that he wouldn't be hurt again; that he himself would make sure of that. But nothing except his own sobs came out of his lips and so he stopped trying. The only thing he did as he wept on was notice that Arwen and Elladan were now joined by Elrond and Elrohir, and that their eyes revealed their own bittersweet emotions as they watched the reunion.
That evening, Aragorn excused himself from his guests and didn't join them for dinner. He stayed with Ceranos instead, showing him everything in the Citadel, from halls to weaponry, and from rooms to the courtyard. Though it was true that Ceranos had managed to see most things on his escapes from the Houses of Healing, it seemed that he was willing to look at them once more. On the other hand, as Aragorn soon realized, what truly mattered to Ceranos wasn't where he was going, but that he was with a friend.
Later on, they both went to the Houses of Healing, where Aragorn told the healers that the Elf was strong enough to go to another room, something that was welcomed by the healers. That didn't surprise Aragorn; he was certain that everyone thought that Ceranos was the worst patient they ever had to tend. What surprised him though was to see Ceranos walking toward Ioreth and giving her a small white rose he had picked from the garden before returning to his side again.
When the hour finally grew late, Aragorn accompanied Ceranos to what would be the Elf's room. He watched Ceranos examine the furniture, especially the desk with an ink-bottle and lots of pieces of paper; notice that there was no bed, but a thin mattress on the floor; look out the balcony to see the view; and in the end nod in approval. Aragorn was concerned that it was too meagre a room, but Ceranos made Aragorn understand that it would serve him just fine. To make his point even stronger, he sat on the mattress and drew the blanket over his legs.
Aragorn watched Ceranos settling himself for a few moments, and sat also on the mattress across the Elf. That certainly brought a smile on Ceranos's face, yet it was clear that he wanted to ask Aragorn something – or rather, a lot of things.
Understanding, Aragorn started telling what he did the last seventy years. He began his tale from the time that he returned to Rivendell to see Elladan; he told of his time among the Rangers; then his part on the War of the Ring. And as Aragorn kept talking, he noticed how the Elf's expression kept changing as well: he listened in fascination at the places Aragorn went, his eyes opened wide in wonder at the amazing things the Man had witnessed, he grinned at funny narratives and saddened at tales of the War.
"When I was crowned king, I married Arwen; and now I am here," Aragorn concluded; then sighed and looked at Ceranos. "Then I went to look for you and I was told of your death. They said that they could not even find your body." He winced when he saw the Elf clenching his jaw. "Ceranos, I…"
But Ceranos only placed a finger on Aragorn's lips and mouthed: I know.
Neither attempted to say anything more at that moment, for they could understand each other even through silence.
It was the sound of a night bird reaching their ears that Man and Elf looked outside the balcony and noticed that the hour grew late.
"I should let you be," said Aragorn. "We have a big day tomorrow."
Ceranos looked at Aragorn questioningly.
"Tomorrow Minas Tirith will hold a celebration for Sauron's defeat. That is why there are so many guests here," Aragorn explained. Yet that was not all that he wanted to say, and Aragorn caught himself uncertain as to how to proceed. "There will also be a great banquet within the Great Hall, to which all the people closest to my heart and who fought alongside me will attend. I would be honoured if you attended as well."
Ceranos was certainly surprised, but Aragorn couldn't determine if his surprise was pleasant or not.
I'm not of the people who vanquished Sauron, Ceranos mouthed, signals accompanying his words.
"But you are of the people who won their freedom, though belated is that victory," Aragorn said with a small smile. "Please, come. It will mean much, not just to me, but to the rest as well: to those who already made your acquaintance and took a liking to you, and to those who heard about you and wish to make your acquaintance."
Ceranos didn't attempt to answer for many long moments, clearly thinking about what Aragorn had just told him; then nodded. I will come. For you and the others.
"Thank you," Aragorn said, smiling. "Expect Elladan and Elrohir tomorrow, they will prepare you for the banquet."
Ceranos nodded again and lied down. He was clearly getting tired.
Understanding, Aragorn arose with the intention of walking out, when suddenly he remembered himself. "By the way, I have something for you." And kneeling beside his friend again, he took out of his pocket a pipe.
Ceranos looked first at the pipe and then at Aragorn, puzzled.
"It was yours," Aragorn said. "You had given it to me as a parting gift, even though you claimed you could not sleep without having a puff of leaf first. Do you wish to have some puffs now?"
Though Ceranos smiled, it was a sad smile that tugged his lips. No. It is a luxury that I was denied for long and now I have no desire of it.
Surprisingly enough, Aragorn felt tears threatening to flow once more, and his hand caressed absentmindedly the short strands.
"You have changed so much." He didn't have the luxury to wonder at how raw with emotion his voice sounded.
When Ceranos looked up to the Man, tears had filled his eyes also.
"But you know something?" said then Aragorn, his voice becoming steady once more. "You are still Ceranos Orcbane, the Elf who was raised by Dwarves and became the patriarch of his foster father's clan; the Elf with whom I faced the long darkness of Moria and whose courageous and honourable soul can only be compared to his skill with forging. That can never be changed. Do you understand?"
Ceranos nodded a bit; then his hand reached for Aragorn's and squeezed it gently, whereas his eyes never left the Man's.
Aragorn was a bit baffled by this, but he soon realised that Ceranos was in this way expressing his gratitude. Smiling, he merely pulled the blanket over his friend's form and watched him slowly drifting into the land of dreams. Then, moving quietly so as not to disturb Ceranos's sleep, he walked out to find Arwen.
"I was blind," Aragorn said to the Elven-woman, as they both lay on their bed. "All the signs were there, in front of me; yet I could not see them."
"How could you see them, when you did not know what you were looking for?" asked Arwen. "You believed Ceranos was dead, so you could not possibly imagine it was him."
Aragorn merely sighed and gazed for a moment outside the window.
"It is him and, in many ways, he is not." He looked at his wife. "What do you think they did to him?"
"I do not know. Whatever it was, it was terrible."
"Do you think he was--?" Aragorn didn't finish his sentence, not wishing to utter something so atrocious.
"Of course not, Aragorn. If he was, he would be dead," reasoned Arwen.
The Man allowed himself a small smile of relief. "That is fortunate, I suppose." There was a small pause of silence. "Will he be able to tell us what happened to him?"
"Perhaps," came the thoughtful answer. "But only in due time."
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.