8. The Friendship of a King
Followed by his companions and Arwen, Aragorn walked into the Great Hall and sat on the throne with a tired sigh. He turned to one of the attending servants who happened to be there at the time and gave him instructions that he should not be disturbed for at least an hour.
"Are the rooms ready to receive our guests for the Anniversary?" Aragorn asked then.
"They've been ready since yesterday, Sire."
"Have one more prepared as well. We might have another attendant."
"Very good, Sire." And with a bow of his head, the servant went out.
"Will that extra room be Daurir's, by any chance?" asked Gimli.
"I intend it to be," answered Aragorn. "He cannot stay in the Houses of Healing forever."
"Meanwhile, we should still try and find out from which realm he is," said Legolas thoughtfully. "My father fought against the Easterlings of Rhûn. Perhaps if I send him a letter with the description of Daurir, he will be able to identify him as one of the soldiers that fought under his command."
"Do you think he will know?" asked Arwen.
"If not him, probably someone of the household or the march wardens will," answered Legolas.
"This will take some time though," said then Aragorn.
"It is still the best option we have for now," argued the Mirkwood Prince with a slight shrug of his shoulders.
"Indeed," said Arwen, sighing. "I, meanwhile, will write to my grandparents in Lothlórien. Daurir could be from Caras Galadhon, for all we know."
"And somebody should talk to Daurir himself as well. He is bound to wake up quite confused and somebody should help him understand why this is happening to him; that it is for his own good."
An uncomfortable silence reigned in the Hall after Aragorn's words.
"I cannot go," declared Arwen. "Not only he will he wake up confused, but also angry with me. I do not think he will wish to hear anything else I might have to say to him after my actions."
"I cannot go either," said Aragorn. "Not after the clash we had."
Gimli and Legolas looked at each other briefly; then the Elf stepped forward.
"How about Gimli and I? He has nothing against us."
Both Arwen and Aragorn shook their heads at this.
"You released your arrows at us, Legolas. He will remember that. I do not think he will care for Gimli's presence either," the Man said. After all, he knew of the animosity that existed between Elves and Dwarves and, even though there were instances of Aulë's creations being on friendly terms with the Firstborn through the course of history, now only Legolas and Gimli shared such a friendship.
Aragorn sighed. He came to know of another Elf who had great love for the Dwarves, but that one was no more.
I should have visited you earlier, Ceranos. Now it is too late. He rubbed his forehead. Valar, why did he have to recall the dead now?
"Aragorn, are you well?"
"Yes, do not trouble yourself," the Man answered at once at Arwen's question." I am merely tired, that is all."
"Should I tell the servant not to disturb you at all today?" asked the lady then.
Aragorn never had the chance to answer, for at that moment another servant came in.
"The hour is not passed," said Aragorn, looking hard at the newcomer.
"Forgive the intrusion, Sire, but this could not wait. Lord Elrond and his sons have just passed the outer gates and they wish to greet you."
Everyone almost jumped at the news.
"Send them in!" Aragorn commanded, hardly containing his excitement. Lord Elrond's advice was always most welcome to the Man, and now it felt like he needed it more than ever.
Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir came in, smiling broadly.
"Tut, tut, Estel! You change your name to Lord Elessar and you have us waiting outside like we are one of your subjects?" asked Elrohir, his eyes shining with the slight tease he uttered.
"Never! Not you, my brothers!" declared Aragorn, embracing the twins tightly.
"We missed you too, Estel," said Elladan affectionately, returning the embrace; then the twins turned to Arwen, gladdened to see their sister again after almost two years, and embraced her as well. "Legolas, Gimli." They smiled to their friends and bowed cordially.
"Elladan, Elrohir," said Legolas, also bowing and having Gimli follow his example; then whispered to his Dwarven companion with a tease, "Elladan is the one on the left and Elrohir the one on the right."
"I knew that!" exclaimed Gimli in mock indignation, only to add in a small voice the next instant: "I think."
Aragorn and Arwen, in the meantime, greeted Elrond, who, to their surprise, put on a serious expression and was looking at both of them hard.
"Though your are indeed glad to see me, I can clearly see that dark thoughts cloud your minds and weariness is reflected in your eyes."
Aragorn averted his eyes shyly. The wise Half-elf had always that quality of seeing through him, no matter how hard he tried to play down his concerns.
"Many things came to pass," he finally said, deciding to speak the truth. "And I wish your counsel."
"That I can always give," said Elrond, smiling a bit. "We should be alone though," he pointed out.
Arwen understood. "I will go with Elladan and Elrohir to show them to their rooms personally. Legolas and Gimli will come with me, too."
"Very well," said Elrond; then prodded Aragorn to walk up to the window, just like he used to when the Man was still known only as Estel and was living in Rivendell. "What has happened?"
And Aragorn started telling his tale.
"Strange looking, isn't he?"
"And so thin, poor thing!"
"Did you see the ears?"
"Of course, silly! He's an Elf, remember?"
"Could he be related to Lady Arwen? There is some resemblance!"
"You also thought Prince Legolas was related to Lady Arwen! Nice-looking and pointy-eared doesn't equal relation, you know!"
"As if you lived among Elves to know better!"
"Hush, you two! He's stirring!"
Ceranos lolled his head sideways in an attempt to will himself to open his eyes, but he failed miserably. What was worse, he had a splitting headache and those women talking over his head certainly didn't help matters much.
Finally finding the strength, he opened his eyes to see three young women looking at him, all of them smiling.
Ceranos's jaw almost dropped at the sight. Where did they come from? Next thing he knew, he was clenching his hands in a weak attempt to push himself away, until his body registered the soft surface of a… mattress?! He froze, his eyes widening in disbelief. Darting his gaze to all directions, he realised to his utter surprise that he was in a sunlit room, on a large bed.
How in the world did I end up here?!
Just then a gentle breeze coming in contact with his body made him register something just as important. Turning crimson as he suddenly became quite self-conscious, he dared a peek down at himself. Thank the Valar, he still had his breeches on! He pulled up the sheets and covered himself up to his waist.
"My, look at this! He's shy!" exclaimed one of the women, grinning.
"We don't bite, you know," said another one to Ceranos reassuringly. "We merely wanted to look at you."
"After all, we don't always see Elves from so close," said the third one with a nod.
"Well, girls, you have looked at him enough! Can't you see you're frightening him almost out of his wits?" sounded at that moment another voice that Ceranos clearly discerned it belonged to an elderly woman.
Truly enough, a woman, whose face carried deep lines of age but her eyes betrayed a bright spirit behind them, appeared at the door, holding a water basin, some bandages and some clothes.
"Now shoo, all three of you! Lord Elessar said our guest is to get as much rest as he can – that's what the Houses of Healing are for, not finding mates!"
"All right, Ioreth, no need to make such a fuss!" laughed the girls and started walking out. "Farewell, fair Elf! Don't be intimidated by Ioreth, her bark is worse than her bite!"
"Bah!" exclaimed the old woman and pushed the door closed with her leg; then walked up to Ceranos, mumbling: "You leave them alone for a few moments and they all start gawping at every man they set their eyes upon." Seeing the apprehensive look that Ceranos gave her, however, made her smile warmly. "Do not mind us, my lord. Our work is difficult and we need to perk ourselves up every once and a while."
Ceranos nodded his understanding and relaxed a bit. He still couldn't rid himself of his fears though, not to mention the fact that Ioreth calling him lord made him feel awkward. After all, he was not one – not anymore anyway. Locking his gaze on the old woman, he studied her carefully as she helped him sit up and dexterously started undoing his bandages.
"The wound isn't healing quickly, but at least it's not very big, my lord. You should be up and about soon enough," Ioreth declared, examining the Elf's shoulder. "When they brought you here this morning, my son, who was holding one end of the stretcher that carried you, kept telling me how awful you looked and how he didn't think you would survive." Ioreth chuckled slightly as she now started washing away the dried blood that had formed on the injury. "Indor is a fine soldier under our king's command, but I have seen quite remarkable things happening in here. All the healers still talk about the time the steward's son was at death's door and our king healed him with mere kingsfoil! Right about the time the War was about to end, in fact. Let me see, when was that?" she pondered, clearly talking more to herself now than to Ceranos. "Bless me, it's been two years since then! And two years since the War ended! Time flies, doesn't it? Did you fight in the War?"
Ceranos's answer was only a small, absent-minded nod, for now another thought preoccupied his mind, making him almost dizzy. He was captive for only two years?
It felt more like centuries.
"Bad times, weren't they?" said Ioreth, seeing clearly the darkness in the Elf's eyes and guessing – though wrongly – where his mind had drifted off to. "At least we were victorious and now that Gondor has a king once again, we don't have to fear anything again."
Ceranos tried hard to grasp all the information he could get from Ioreth's talkativeness. So he was in Gondor. He had heard of that realm of Men before, of course, but, as far as he knew, there was no king. Time then, no matter how small, has a way of changing things.
"Remarkable man, Lord Elessar, don't you think? He has travelled all over Middle-earth, they say; and I believe it, for he has the oddest set of acquaintances I've seen in my long life! Wizards, Dwarves, Halflings, you name it! He's even married to an Elf! And my, Lady Arwen is beautiful as she is kind! The entire household was worried when news came of her disappearance, you know!"
Ceranos's teeth clenched involuntarily. Beautiful, yes, but kind? He found it hard to believe it, for he still recalled her deception. She even acted on showing interest in taking care of his wound!
You did not see malevolence when you looked into her eyes though, did you?
He sighed. No, he didn't. On the other hand, why would she do this to him? Out of a wish to help him? What kind of help was that?
Ceranos rubbed his forehead, trying to soothe his headache, which only became worse. He couldn't make anything out of this situation and his questions only became more.
"Indor told me it was you who finally found Lady Arwen. Is it true?" asked then Ioreth, now bandaging the hurt shoulder again.
Wearily, Ceranos again answered with a nod. The way things turned out, he now wished he hadn't, for he got caught in a predicament from which he couldn't untangle himself – much like back in Rhûn. He shuddered violently, the very thought making his blood run cold in his veins, and hugged himself.
"Frankly, my lord, I should be the one shivering! You feel as cold as ice, if I may be so bold to say!" exclaimed Ioreth and placed a hand over Ceranos's forehead. "You're not feverish at least. Here, these should make things better for you." She picked up the nightclothes she brought when coming in and helped Ceranos dress; then tenderly placed another blanket over him.
"There, all done!" she finally said, smiling. "I can also fetch you a cup of nice hot milk if you like so to warm your insides." Puzzled, she noticed that the Elf was looking at her thoughtfully. "Did I say something wrong, my lord?"
Ceranos instantly shook his head, trying to show that Ioreth had merely misunderstood him. Seeing no other way, he forced himself to do something he never thought he was capable of doing ever again: he tugged his lips to a small smile.
"Very well, my lord," said Ioreth, answering with a broad smile of her own. "Try to make yourself comfortable and I will return shortly."
And with that she walked out, leaving Ceranos for the time being alone with his thoughts.
Elrohir picked up the glass of wine Arwen had offered him and his brother and sipped thoughtfully. None of the three siblings spoke for a very long time and an uncomfortable silence started becoming heavier by the moment. This was something that both Legolas and Gimli had expected, so they had excused themselves long before Arwen had started explaining to the twins what came to pass the last three days.
"This Daurir's tale is all too familiar," the youngest of the twins said grimly.
"You spoke my mind as well, brother," said Elladan. "That is why you wish to help him, is it not, Arwen?"
Arwen nodded slightly. "I have to believe that he can reclaim his life in this world."
Elrohir shook his head. "We tried that with Mother and we failed. Keeping him here confined will only add to his distress and sorrow. There is only one place where one can find the peace he so desires. Even father knew of this and that is why he let Mother sail west."
"On the other hand, the Grey Havens are far from here and Valinor even farther. I do not think he will last if he attempts that journey," said Elladan.
"Mother did," argued Elrohir.
"Because she had not suffered the burden of her torments as long as Daurir has," Arwen said then. "He had to endure for two years, Elrohir; and let us not forget that Mother had us and Father to help her. He is alone."
Elladan raised his hand to appease Arwen.
"What are the symptoms so far?"
Elrohir nodded, a sign that he was interested in what the answer might be also.
Arwen bowed her head and started telling of all her observations.
"Though he has shown that he is capable of great outbursts of energy, Daurir in general lacks strength. He gets tired quite easily to the point of exhaustion, even when he is performing the least of tasks. This weakening of his life-force could explain why the speed of his natural healing ability has been reduced to the point of almost non-existent. Moreover, he is cold to the touch and his eyes have darkened, reflecting the burden of his spirit. And, what is worse is…" She stopped.
"What?" asked the twins, intrigued.
"While he was with me, he suffered through a painful strain in his heart which could be an attempt of his spirit to abandon the body and flee to the Halls of Mandos. I have reasons to believe that this happened before and, if Daurir keeps fading, the pain will also increase in tension and frequency."
The twins sighed and locked their gaze on each other, both sharing the same thought.
"Mother had left for the Undying lands long before she had such symptoms," said Elladan solemnly.
"What of his emotional state?" asked Elrohir.
"Quite unstable," answered Arwen. "He is detached and indifferent for the most part, but that can change the moment he feels provoked. He can become aggressive and violent to the point that he will disregard his own safety. He has also shown signs of lack of concentration and indecision when it comes to important matters; even confusion."
"Has he shown any signs of trusting anyone?"
"Not any clear ones. He has, however, shown signs who he does not trust. He bears a grudge against the race of Men, yet not to all of them."
"What do you mean?" asked Elladan again.
"He is more tolerant to the presence of women. Moreover, like I said before, he will not attack, not even men, unless he feels threatened."
"That is good news. It means Daurir knows where to direct his hatred," noted Elrohir.
"Which will make it easier for Aragorn to speak with him, even if your husband thinks otherwise, Arwen. Indeed, the way I understand things, he must go to Daurir and talk to him."
"No! It cannot be me!" exclaimed Aragorn. "We were ready to kill each other only yesterday!"
"Which is precisely why it must be you, Aragorn," said Elrond, looking sternly at the Man. "You told me how the clash happened and it is clear to me that you both misunderstood the other's actions. Once this has been sorted, Daurir will be more ready to listen to anything else you might have to say to him. Moreover, the fact that you are of the race of Men and yet still willing to make that gesture of peace first will mean much more to him than the fact that you are married to Arwen or that you are the ruler of one of the Free peoples of Middle-earth."
"How?" asked Aragorn wonderingly.
"Is it not obvious?" replied Elrond. "He was forced to tolerate Men treating him as an inferior for two years; now at last he is to meet someone who will treat him as an equal."
Aragorn looked out of the window, clearly pondering on the situation.
"I am still not certain about this," he finally said with a sigh. "You should have seen his face, Elrond. It reflected such fury and hatred!"
"Feelings that derive from his fear," said the Half-elf kindly. "Yes, Estel, Daurir is afraid, never doubt that." He placed a reassuring hand on Aragorn's shoulder, thus making him look at him. "Help him overcome his fear and you will find a friend in him. I know it is difficult, but I never said you should do this alone. Ask anyone's assistance: the twins', Arwen's, even Legolas and Gimli's. Something tells me they will also want to unravel the mystery Daurir proves."
Aragorn finally smiled.
"I will do as you say. In fact, I will go this instant; Daurir should have woken up by now. Will you come with me?"
"Not this time, no. Daurir must not think that you are visiting him because someone is breathing down your neck! You can, however, escort me up to my quarters, I believe they are on your way if I remember correctly."
Aragorn agreed with a nod. They didn't speak as they walked to Elrond's room through the torch lit corridors as night had finally settled in. But, as soon as the Man was ready to leave and continue to the Houses of Healing, the Peredhel grasped lightly his arm.
"Aragorn, the most important thing is that Daurir must not feel like a slave. Do not force anything out of him. Remember it."
"I will remember."
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.