15. A Feast To Remember
Minas Tirith was bustling with life before dawn, yet no one was working today. For that day, 23rd of March, was the day Sauron was overthrown and peace reigned once again in the realm of Gondor. Because of this, the King of Gondor had declared that day a holiday, and every citizen could visit the Citadel to see for himself the items that were held at so high esteem in the realm: the Orc-clothing on which the Ringbearer had travelled into Mordor and destroyed the Dark Lord's ring; the weapons of the fallen heroes; the sword of the king; even get a glimpse of the battle by the gates of the Morannon, or read a paragraph or two from the books that told of the king's bloodline.
That was what Merry and Pippin did as well, and they were fortunate that Gandalf was accompanying them, because it would be quite difficult for them to see anything with the crowd that surrounded them. They were delighted to see themselves on the tapestry, fighting alongside Aragorn and their friends, and they felt proud to see their cousin's armour; even the likeness of the statue was uncanny.
Suddenly, Merry stopped. He was looking at the double-headed axe that had by now been returned to its place on the wall.
"This can't be Gimli's! It's too big for him!" he exclaimed.
"Indeed not," said Gandalf, unable to help himself but smile at the Hobbits' puzzled faced.
Pippin raised an eyebrow of curiosity. "You know whose is it, don't you?"
"Let us just say that I had a very… enlightening conversation with Lord Elrond last night," said Gandalf. "You have already met the owner of this weapon, though you do not know his name."
"For once, Gandalf, I wish you spoke plainly!" exclaimed Pippin with a groan.
Merry, however, had clearly understood. "It's that Elf we saw on our arrival, wasn't it? We have seen him, and though he's called Daurir, we don't know his real name."
"Well done, Meriadoc!" said Gandalf. "It seems that you haven't lost your skill in solving riddles."
"Though I have yet to solve the riddle why would an Elf carry an axe," noted Merry thoughtfully.
"That is a story that Aragorn will probably be able to tell you better than I," said Gandalf. "All I can tell you is that he was considered dead till now, hence why his weapon is in here. And, in a way, he still is dead."
"What do you mean?" asked Merry, utterly lost this time.
"The War killed him, perhaps not in body, but certainly in spirit; just like it killed Frodo. And much like Frodo, I do not think he will ever be fully healed."
Both Merry and Pippin sighed, finally understanding and the connection clearly saddening them.
Gandalf clasped his hands on their shoulders, smiling at them kindly. "That doesn't mean that they are beyond assistance. Frodo has you two and Samwise, and Ceranos will gain his own friends to support him in time."
That cheered up the Hobbits somewhat. They looked at each other for a moment, then at Gandalf. "We'll try to help, too," they said.
"I was sure of it," was all that the Wizard said, and they walked on to have a look at the books.
Finally, the night of the great feast came and everyone was excited. There was music playing, wine served and – of course – lots of food for the guests. Most importantly, however, the feast was a meeting of old friends who, after parting their way almost two years ago, were now sharing their tidings once again.
"Master Meriadoc," said Éowyn, "it is good to see you again!"
"Well met, friend Peregrin," said Faramir, greeting the second Hobbit. He looked at Merry and Pippin; then raised an eyebrow of curiosity. "Is not Samwise Gamgee and the Ringbearer with you?"
"Not this time," answered Merry. "Sam's wife is due and so both Sam and Frodo stayed behind to look after her."
"What about Beregond?" asked then Pippin, his turn to feel puzzled. "Hasn't he come with you, Lord Faramir?"
"Not quite, my friend," said Faramir, shaking his head. "Remember that Beregond has been banished from Minas Tirith."
"Oh! I had forgotten about it," Pippin exclaimed. "It's a shame. I missed him and I wished to see him again."
Faramir smiled. "Beregond wished to see you too. That is why he rode with me up to the gates and camped with the rest of the men outside the city. He's expecting your visit tomorrow morning." He leant closely as though to share a secret. "I do believe he has brought mushrooms with him."
"Mushrooms?" echoed Pippin, his eyes brightening.
"Oi! If there are mushrooms, I'm coming, too!" announced Merry.
"And leave none for me?! I think not!"
Faramir and Éowyn laughed. "Gentlemen," Faramir intervened, "Since I know Beregond is well-acquainted with you, I am certain he has enough rations for both of you."
That certainly brought both Hobbits a huge grin on their faces, and they couldn't wait till they saw the captain.
Meanwhile, Aragorn was circulating in the crowd, his eyes darting in every direction. He saw Arwen speaking with Lothíriel; Legolas and Gimli conversing with Éomer; and Elrond was with Gandalf, sharing their discussion without needing to utter the words. In fact, it seemed everyone was enjoying each other's company and they were having a good time.
It was then that Aragorn noticed that not everyone was in the Great Hall. Three people were missing. Three Elves to be exact: Elladan, Elrohir and Ceranos.
Aragorn frowned. What was delaying them?
He is doing it again. Elladan couldn't help but feel annoyed at that repeated motion that he kept catching sight of as he, Elrohir and Ceranos walked towards the Great Hall. After the first three times, it was gradually becoming too much.
There it is again. Elladan glared at Ceranos, but it was futile. The young Elf was too preoccupied with his own concerns to notice anything.
At the third time, Elladan swatted Ceranos's hand away from the collar.
"Let it be! It is meant to be around your neck!" And with a swift movement, he lifted the collar again and straightened it.
A pitiable expression settled on Ceranos's features as he pointed at his collar and clenched his fist around his neck in a mock-choking fashion.
Raising an eyebrow, Elladan examined the collar. "You are exaggerating. It is not tight."
"It is to an Elf who was raised by Dwarves, brother," reasoned Elrohir calmly. He turned to Ceranos. "Do not fret. Once at the feast, you will be among so many people talking at you that you will forget about the collar soon enough."
Ceranos blinked. Many?! he mouthed, eyes widening.
"Well, of course," said Elrohir. "There will be Aragorn and Arwen, that goes without saying; Legolas and Gimli; Father…"
"The King of Rohan; the Prince of Ithilien and Steward of Gondor; Prince Imrahil - with their wives, too, naturally…." said Elladan.
"Mithrandir; Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandyback…" continued Elrohir.
"Not to mention the dozens of men and women from the court of Minas Tirith…" remembered Elladan.
"And let us not forget the servants, maids and musicians, brother."
"Indeed," Elladan said with a nod. "So, to finally answer your question, Ceranos…"
But the young Elf had remained several feet behind, eyes widened and shaking his head emphatically. Too many, he gestured, almost panicking.
Elladan and Elrohir looked at Ceranos curiously; then at each other.
"Brother, I do believe our friend is nervous."
"I whole-heartedly agree."
"Will you grab his left side or his right?"
"Very well, then…"
And before Ceranos was able to do anything, Elladan and Elrohir had grabbed one arm each and practically dragged him into the Great Hall in spite of his protests. The only thing he could do was try to make himself as small as possible when the doors opened. He discreetly tried to hide behind Elrohir, wishing to escape from all the stares that seemed to be directed at him, but it was of no use. Elrohir made sure that Ceranos was always at his side.
Just then, Aragorn came and greeted all three Elves, smiling broadly. Leaving Ceranos for last, he embraced the young Elf and whispered close to his ear: "I am glad you came."
He was certainly oblivious to Ceranos's thoughts of: I wish I hadn't.
But, Ceranos was still an Elf who held true to his word, so he didn't intend to show his reluctance – openly anyway. Following Aragorn, he was introduced to all the guests, who seemed to be very pleased to make his acquaintance – and even start a conversation with him! Ceranos was flustered for a while, not expecting to be accepted with such ease; but soon he had opened up and, though still a bit restricted in his conversation because of his inability to speak, he could admit that he was enjoying himself.
That is, until he noticed that a group of women was looking at him.
He looked at them from the corner of his eye, registering how they kept giggling in a rather irritating – to his ears – way. They were laughing at him, weren't they? He looked at his robes, somehow wishing to believe that his clothing was to be blamed for his predicament.
It was a pat on his shoulder that made him look up again. He was certainly surprised to see that it was Thranduil's son – and that he was smiling knowingly.
"You will get used to it," Legolas said, leaning confidentially close to him. "Women of the Men's race always do that in the presence of a male Elf."
Ceranos's eyes widened and he stared at Legolas incredulously. Was Legolas trying to tell him that such behaviour from the women was because they thought he was attractive?
Legolas nodded, his smile becoming a grin. "Did you not notice how their giggling increased significantly when I came near you? Two Elves to admire are better than one."
That certainly made Ceranos suddenly feel quite self-conscious. He blushed, a reaction that made Legolas laugh heartily.
"Come. I will take you somewhere where you will be more at ease." And with no other word, they both went to find Gimli.
The Dwarf was certainly more than glad to see Ceranos, that was for certain, because he grinned broadly.
"I will let you two be for the present, I wish to speak to Prince Imrahil," said Legolas; and walked away.
Both Ceranos and Gimli watched Legolas go; then faced each other.
Nice to see you again, Orcbane, Gimli signalled, using Iglishmêk and the title that Ceranos was given long ago among the Dwarves.
Well met, Gimli, Glóin's son, answered Ceranos, smiling.
And the two started conversing about mining and forging. So engrossed were they in their conversation, that Ceranos was caught by surprise when Aragorn went up to him and asked him to come with him. The next thing Ceranos knew, he was at Aragorn and Arwen's side in a small platform, and the man was asking everyone to listen to a few words he meant to say.
"Friends and kin," Aragorn started, "We have gathered here today to celebrate for a great victory and the freedom we earned against Sauron. When it all seemed the darkest, every one of you gave your own fight, showing to the Enemy in this way that courage, goodness and hope always endures. For this, I give you all many thanks."
Everyone raised his cup in salute, thus accepting Aragorn's thanks. However, the King of Gondor hadn't quite finished.
"Still, I wish also to say that this is not just a celebration. It is also a gathering so we can remember those who gave their own life so we could have peace. Though it is a sorrow that they're not here today, it is the sweetest of sorrows. Their strength and bravery will be always kept in our minds and our hearts, so that we can look up to them and our children can regard them as they should: as heroes."
All nodded their approval at this. It was then that Aragorn smiled.
"Today is also a blessed day for me, because I found a friend that I thought I lost forever. He's standing next to me and you all have come to know him as Ceranos Orcbane.
"Some of you are probably thinking that you have never heard of that name before, or indeed this is a strange name for one of the Firstborn. Well, it would certainly have been had he not but for a twist for fate been raised by Dwarves and meant to live in the mountain halls for the most part of his immortal life.
"In spite of it, we still met, under the most dangerous of circumstances, I might add," Aragorn continued, smiling at the memory. "In four days we had managed to face the darkness of the world underground; the wrath of Trolls and hate of Orcs; fire and injuries; and yet pulled through. And it was more than enough for me to consider him a friend, even after we had parted our ways with a word of farewell and a promise that we should meet again.
"Yet, when finally came the time that I could keep my promise, I was told that my friend was no more. That he was slain fighting against the same evil we all had to face. And that's what I still believed until yesterday. When an Elf, coming out of the depths of Rhûn after suffering enslavement for two years, turned out the very friend I mourned. I want you all to welcome him as what he is already in my heart: A friend and a hero."
Everyone clapped, something that made Ceranos feel his face becoming crimson. He didn't see himself as a hero, he couldn't; not after what happened in Rhûn. So he got ready to step away, but two children stopped him.
No. Taking a closer look, he realised that those were no children. They were Merry and Pippin, the Halflings he met a short while ago – and they were now grabbing him by his legs!
"Awfully sorry, but it seems you have gone the wrong way," said Merry, grinning.
"That's right," seconded Pippin. "What sort of a reunion is that if you are to take the complete opposite direction?"
Ceranos stared at them incredulously for many long moments; then shook his head, smiling. He was bested. Turning around, he walked up to Aragorn, who was smiling broadly, clearly thanking the Hobbits for their interference; and embraced him.
"Welcome back," whispered Aragorn, returning the embrace just as warmly while everyone clapped once again and Arwen smiled. However, Ceranos had also come up with a little scheme and he got ready to fulfil it the moment he pulled himself free from the embrace. He smiled mischievously at Aragorn… and grabbed both Merry and Pippin and hugged them also – tightly.
"Merry, my poor back!" exclaimed Pippin.
"I think I heard a crack at my own back, Pip!"
Such a reaction and the sight of the Hobbits' limbs flailing in the air proved too much. Laughter echoed throughout the hall and even the Hobbits were laughing. Yet the clearest laughter of all was Aragorn's, because it was of utter joy.
His friend's spirit was returning.
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.