"Then Aragorn took leave lovingly of Elrond; and the next day he said farewell to his mother, and the house of Elrond, and to Arwen, and went out into the wild."
-Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen.
Imladris, mid-September 2951
It had been a beautiful and warm day in the valley and the afternoon sun still provided enough warmth to be outside. Aragorn sat on the balcony of his room, eyes intently fixed on the courtyard below him. A party of Rangers had been seen approaching Imladris.
So this is to be my last day here. Tomorrow I will leave all this behind.
It felt strange to go, closing a chapter in the book of his life to open a new one. But this was what he had wanted, had sent the message to his people himself.
I am the lord of a noble people, and to them I will return. I have been trained by the best and will not fail. Aragorn breathed in the beautiful scent of the potted flowers on the railing. But how I will miss my family! And Arwen. He closed his eyes at the pain this thought brought, for he loved her dearly. Will she miss me as well? He did not know her heart, for she had said nothing to him of her feelings towards him. But Aragorn was young and hope was strong within him, and he was sure that he would master the tasks set before him, even if it meant that he would be alone.
He remained where he was, mentally going through the preparations already made and those he would have to make in the morning. Some hours before sunset the party he awaited finally arrived. From his vantage point Aragorn saw that it consisted of three men and two elves of the border guards. He felt anxiousness well up within him. He had spent many days wondering what a ranger might look like for had never seen one before.
When they passed the gate, Aragorn stayed where he was, watching intently. They looked grim, but despite their worn clothes of green and brown they held themselves proudly on their shaggy steeds. So these are my people.
"Aragorn!" his mother's call spoke of excitement, "come outside with me. They have arrived."
Gilraen smiled as she stood in the doorway to Aragorn's room. She reached up to straighten Aragorn's tunic, "You must look presentable, my son."
He looked down at his clothing and shrugged. "This is the finest piece of clothing I own. Do you think I should have worn something... plainer? I could see them from my balcony and think that maybe my clothes mock theirs?"
She looked him up and down, then sighed. "A lord can as well greet his people in state. Now come with me, they are already waiting."
The rangers had already been bidden into hall. All three of them stood still, silently waiting. Aragorn thought that their sombre and poor clothing gave a strong contrast to their persons.
They were tall, with black hair, and their piercing gray eyes that held a light that was almost elvish.
At this moment Aragorn realized the privileges he had enjoyed by growing up in Imladris. If he had grown up with the Dúnedain, he surely would look no different.
He knew that the circumstances of his life would undergo great changes, but it suddenly seemed far more real than before. He would manage - somehow.
While Aragorn prepared to give them a formal greeting, his mother rushed past him and threw herself in the arms of one of the men. He held her for a few moments. Then she pulled away, and Aragorn saw that she had her eyes were moist.
"My son," she said, "this is my uncle Gildor, my mother's younger brother, I have told you of him. He has been acting as Chieftain for the past eighteen years."
As Aragorn looked onto Gildor's face, he saw that he was smiling. Then, unexpectedly, Gildor crossed the distance between them and hugged him tightly. For a moment, Aragorn stood shocked and unmoving, then he returned the embrace. He could only imagine how it would be for his great-uncle, and for all the Dúnedain, to finally have their Chieftain returned to them after more than eighteen long years. Alike to someone arising from the dead.
"My heart rejoices to see you again," his mother's uncle whispered, voice thick with emotion. He pulled back and continued in a louder, stronger voice, "I brought Hirgon and Baragund with me."
Hearing their names spoken, they stepped forth and bowed, their right hands over their hearts. They clasped Aragorn's outstretched arm, but remained silent.
In the short moment they made eye contact, Aragorn saw their curiosity and wondered what they thought of him. They must all be old enough to have served under my father and grandfather. Are they comparing me with them?
Later that afternoon, Aragorn sat in his favourite tree with a book in his lap. He tried to read a bit, relishing the peace on this spot one last time, but the letters blurred, and finally he gave up. I am saying goodbye. He closed his eyes and and let his long legs dangle.
Footsteps crunched on the pebble-strewn path, and he knew it must be one of his kinsmen. His eyes flew open, and he saw his great-uncle walking below him. Aragorn leaned down a bit so he would be seen and addressed the older man.
"Are you inspecting Imladris?"
Gildor started a bit, then turned his head up towards Aragorn, smiling.
"I was actually looking for you. Climbing trees like an elf. Is it comfortable up there?"
"I used to come here as a child when I wanted to hide. Of course everybody knew I was there, but no one ever disturbed me. I come here to think, as it has always given me peace."
"You have much to think about now, do you not?"
" Aye, much indeed. But wait, I will come down." The leaves rustled and a few moments later Aragorn dropped down lightly onto the path. "Conversation is easier now, uncle, if I may say so?"
Gildor smiled again. "Of course you may, it makes no difference to me if you call me great-uncle or merely uncle. May I call you nephew, then?"
Aragorn inclined his head. "Aye. Shall we walk in the gardens? They are beautiful."
Gildor nodded and Aragorn led him on. They ambled through the gardens, admiring the flowers planted on each side. Aragorn started the conversation.
"I would like us to speak openly, we are family, and my mother trusts you and I want to do so as well." I need this man and his trust.
The older man gestured for Aragorn to continue. "Of course, speak your mind."
"My thoughts have been manifold and have gone in many directions these last months. But I wonder most about my place among our people."
"You are our lord, Aragorn."
"I know as much, but not all that that entails." Aragorn confessed.
Gildor did not answer right away, obviously thinking. "Many things, you are the captain of the Rangers as well as the Chieftain and leader of our people. You have to speak justice. But above all you are the heir of Isildur."
"They tell me that I am the last, but surely, in all the generations of kings and chieftains, there were other sons and daughters with heirs alive now. Do none of them contest my place?"
"There were of course others. Do not think an heir of Isildur would be content with one child only. But people about it. The younger sons had to publicly renounce their claim on the lordship, while the daughters did not."
Aragorn stopped at that, fully turning towards Gildor. "So the daughters could claim lordship?"
Gildor had stopped as well and was now meeting Aragorn eyes squarely. "The female succession is a much debated issue, Aragorn. It was made law in Númenor that a woman can inherit, but only if there is no male successor."
"So there could be opposition?" Aragorn asked, now alarmed.
"Not as long as you are alive. So do not fear."
Aragorn did not further comment on that. They walked on in silence for a few minutes before Aragorn spoke again.
"What do people think about my long absence?"
Gildor did not answer right away and Aragorn began to fear. Are they discontent? How will they receive me? They might think me too elvish!
"Some of them... became angry upon hearing that Elladan and Elrohir had taken you and your mother here, claiming that your place was with them. But you were only two years old and all knew the enemy hunted descendants of Isildur. It was too dangerous for you there. But we could not convince all of the necessity, though, and they still hod a grudge against Elrond, especially your grandfather Dírhael. But in time most saw reason. Let me assure you that they, like all of us, are looking forward to having you again. You are no stranger."
Aragorn did not want to hear any more about possible discord and saw a chance to change the topic. He would deal with it when and if it came. "You must remember me as a toddler."
"Aye, I do. And now I see a man in front of me. I have heard much of you over the years and wondered how you looked."
"You have heard much about me? How is that possible?" Aragorn asked, bewildered.
"Whenever Elladan and Elrohir met with us, they brought us news of you. It gladdened us all to hear you were well and grew into a fine young man. But now I think it would be better if we could get to know each other while we have time to speak alone. What would you know?"
Aragorn had had many questions, but now he did not know how to voice them. It was a while before he answered.
"I would learn about your family and how you live."
"I live in a town called Carastar and am married to your father's sister Araneth. Together we have four children, three boys and a girl. Halladan, my eldest, is twenty-seven, then there is Halbarad at twenty-two, and Míriel, nineteen. Haldor, my youngest, is sixteen. He has only just started his ranger-training and is obsessed with it."
"Are they usually this age when the begin their training?"
"Weapon's training and the teaching of other skills naturally begins much earlier. But at this age they begin their duties, not beyond the first sentry line, though."
"And when is a ranger's training finished?"
"This differs, of course. But as a rule, no one goes alone if he is not yet twenty-five."
"When he is of age." No journeys alone for the next four and a half years.
"You will reach that age soon enough."
The two had left the gardens behind and now approached a little wood. Aragorn stopped and caressed the bark of the nearest tree.
"Everything here holds so many memories. Now I am finding that I never really appreciated what I had. Growing up here in peace was such a normal thing for me that I assumed it was so everywhere. But now I know that this was wrong."
"You were well protected in this haven. You should be glad for it, not mourn it."
"I am, I only mourn the fact that not everybody can experience such a childhood. There is so much misery in this world. How shall I face it and how shall I lead a scattered people?"
Gildor squeezed his shoulders before replaying with a grin, "I should say listen to your heart and to the ones wiser than you. But let us go back to the house now."
The two made their way back to the gardens in silence. When they arrived, the lamps framing the paths had already been lit. Aragorn stopped in front of the entry to the house.
"Thank you for telling me about you and our people, uncle, though you have given me more to think about."
Gildor inclined his head, "Gladly have I done it. I will see you at dinner."
Gildor left with long strides. Aragorn remained standing for a time, breathing deeply listening to the sounds of the night. You told me the truth, you have my trust. Despite the still very warm temperature, Aragorn shivered.
Aragorn did not sleep well that night. Though autumn had come, the nights remained unusually hot, and he tossed and turned the whole night, the short hours of sleep he was granted were troubled.
Over and over, his mind produced images of Carastar, the place where he would come to live, and every time the images were different and the faces changed.
Finally he could bear it no longer. He dressed and made his way out of his chamber. Night still hung over the valley and the corridors were empty.
Almost without thinking, Aragorn left the house, took the path he had taken with Gildor, and walked towards the small wood of birches. Unbidden, other memories assailed his mind He remembered Arwen as he had seen her for the first time. She had worn a mantle of silver and blue. How beautiful she had looked with the red light of the setting sun illuminating her form and making the gems on her brows sparkle and gleam like fire.
Since then, his life changed completely. Not one day passed without thinking of her, it even overshadowed the weight that came with the lordship of a lost people. He knew he could not allow himself the luxury of letting her rule his days, but it was so very hard to ignore the love he felt.
He arrived at his destination, half hoping she would be there, but of course she was not. He lay down on the grass and gazed up at the many stars overhead. Still sleep would not come, but at last the stars gave him solace and his mind peace.
He stayed until the first sunrays penetrated the darkness.
Aragorn walked back slowly, trying to take it all in and keep the images in his mind. I am leaving today and do not know the day of my return. When he arrived back at the house, it was already time for breakfast, and so he decided to go straight into the dining-hall rather than stop at his room. On the way, Elrohir spotted him and fell in stride with him.
"Good morning, Estel. Bad night?" the elf asked by way of greeting.
Aragorn looked questioningly at his foster brother. Elrohir chuckled.
"You have grass-stains on your back. This tells me that you lay outside rather than in your bed. You are troubled, are you not?"
Aragorn sighed. "Aye, my heart is troubled. But this is to be expected; you know that I will leave today. I have never seen my people before, and I feel as if I am thrust into icy water. I do not know their ways."
"Hm," Elrohir answered, "we have taught you much, as, I am sure, has your mother. You do not arrive at Carastar without knowledge."
"Aside from my mother and now Gildor, I know no Dúnadan. I know not their hearts. Do you think I am prepared for this?"
Elrohir considered this for a moment.
"Do you think you will be more prepared when you are older? Think of the birds and how they teach their little ones how to fly. They push them out of the nest, and they fall for a time, but then they spread their wings and fly. It will be so with you, pen fileg."
Aragorn actually laughed at Elrohir's last comment.
"This is the first time I have been compared to a bird."
"Well, perhaps an eagle is more to the point, for you have talons. Now go, thoron," Elrohir played with the word, "son of a kingly eagle."
Before Aragorn could comment on the reference to his father, Elrohir pushed the door of the dining-hall open.
They were the last to arrive, and the others, including his uncle, Hirgon, and Baragund, had already started with their breakfast.
"Ah, you have found him, Elrohir. Good morning, Estel." Elrond greeted him warmly.
"Good morning to you as well, ada, and to all of you. I was outside, taking a walk." Aragorn answered, boldly seating himself on the vacant chair to Arwen's right. When he was seated, their gazes met only for the briefest of moments before she averted her eyes, but he had seen something in her intense gaze that made him pause. As she looked up again, it had vanished. She wished him a good morning as well, smiling warmly. Aragorn smiled back.
He grabbed a slice of bread and cheese, then turned to her. "I would like to talk with you ere I leave."
Her hands stilled but for a moment and Aragorn would have missed it if he had not been looking at her closely. "Of course, after breakfast?"
"I will have to finish packing first, but after I that."
Arwen cocked her head and smiled. "Shall I help you, we can talk then."
"I would not want you to work on my behalf."
"Nonsense," she made a sweeping gesture and her hand brushed against his, "you know that I would gladly help you, do you not?"
Suddenly Elladan leaned over the table. "Gildor tells me that you talked to him yesterday."
Aragorn took a bite of bread and chewed, then, "I have, and?"
"What do you think?"
"I found him to be a nice man."
Elladan pushed a bowl of apples away and leaned even closer, a grin on his face. "And?"
Aragorn pushed it back, making Arwen laugh. "You sound as if Gildor were a young lady!" Arwen laughed once again. "And even though I consider you my brother does not mean I tell you everything."
Elladan pulled a face, grinned again and addressed Arwen. "Our brother here begins having secrets." Aragorn sighed inwardly. She is not my sister, but you do not understand. He took another bite and ate in silence.
Aragorn went to his chambers to finish packing. Even though he had packed the previous evening, there were still some things he had to take care of. After a few moments, Arwen knocked at the doorframe. He waved her in.
"I promised I would come." She said quietly.
"And I never doubted it. But I have nothing for you to do. Let us just sit here." He led her to a couch and sat next to her. But words would not come.
Arwen took his hands and squeezed them. "You wanted to say goodbye?"
"Yes, and no." He stammered a bit and sighed. "I wanted to apologize, I should not have confronted you the way I did. It was not fair."
"It was not your fault, Aragorn. You are young yet and know not much of the world. I am sorry that I hurt you, but I cannot return your feelings." She bowed her head, then looked at him again. "At least not yet." She gave a start when she realized what she had said. At least not yet? Is there hope? If I but knew her thoughts. "But I will give you my friendship, if you want it."
"I would gladly have it, as well as your blessings, lady."
"And gladly will I give them." She kissed him on the cheek, then embraced him. "I will leave you to your packing then."
Aragorn leaned back and watched her retreating form.
At his feet stood two small chests and various packs, waiting to be carried outside. This was all the packhorse would be able to carry, and he had packed with consideration. The result was a mix of clothes, weapons, healing supplies, favourite books, and other personal items he could not part with. On top of everything lay the shards of Narsil.
Aragorn hesitated to leave the room that had been his for as long as he could remember. He sighed, crossed the floor and sat on the bed. Somehow, it felt strange to pack his things and know that he was not coming back in a week or two, or even in a month.
His home was here no longer, and he had packed to start a new life.
He hugged the pillow and buried is face in its softness, breathing in and out slowly. It would not serve anything if he cried now. A light weight settled next to him on the mattress and Gilraen's hand caressed his head.
"Goro amdir, ion-nin, iston bellithach, have faith, you will be strong,"
She repeated the elvish words and pressed him against her breast. Aragorn groaned.
"Naneth, I am no longer a little boy! I have no need of this." He complained, but held still none the less.
"But maybe I have. You will always be my little boy, no matter how old you are."
They sat for a while, Gilraen humming the melody of a song that she used to sing to her little son. Then she straightened herself and pushed him in a sitting position.
"Garo estel. It is time. My uncle is ready to leave, now say goodbye to me and make your farewells to the other." She kissed the top of his head. "I will miss you very much, Aragorn. Go with my blessing."
"I will miss you as well, naneth. I will try to come back when I may."
Standing up together, Gilraen smoothed back the hair that had fallen in her son's eyes.
"Go now, they are waiting."
Aragorn took the pack he usually used for traveling and slung it over his shoulder, leaving the rest to be taken out by the members of the house.
They were all outside in the courtyard to see him off. Suddenly Aragorn felt a stab of pain in his heart at the sight. Who knew when he would see them again, or if he would ever come back to the Valley. A part of him wished he could stay, but that door was now closed to him. All that lay ahead was the unknown road.
Elrond stepped forth, and embraced him warmly.
"We have said all there is to say. I know that you are prepared for your new life and I am proud of you, my son, for that you will be to me always, no matter your real parentage. Remember that home is where the heart lies and that you will always be welcome in this house. I love you, Aragorn."
With that, the two parted and Aragorn received numerous embraces or clasps from the inhabitants of the valley.
Arwen was there as well, and she held a package in her hands which she gave him.
"What is in there?" Aragorn asked curiously.
Arwen smiled at him. "Something for the road. You told me once it was your favourite sweet."
He thanked her and kissed her hand.
Elladan and Elrohir were the last of Elrond's household to approach him and when Aragorn noticed that they were attired for riding, he knew what was coming.
"You know that if you want us to come with you, we will." Elrohir proposed.
For a moment Aragorn was tempted to accept their offer, but then he steeled himself for what he knew was the right thing.
Laying a hand on both their shoulders, he said softly,
"At any other time, my brothers, I would gladly take you with me, but I have to do this alone. This is my journey to face on my own."
He gave each of them a brief hug before pulling back.
Gilraen stood with her kinsmen and was the last he had to say his farewells to. He took her into his arms, and they stood for a while.
"Take care, my son. And do not forget to visit your mother, yes? Oh, how I will miss you, Aragorn."
They pulled back, and she gave him a kiss on the forehead in blessing. Aragorn walked with the other Dúnedain to their horses. Once mounted, Baragund took the lead-line of the packhorse. With the pressure of legs on horse-flanks, they started to move, Aragorn forcing himself not to look back.
A bit of Sindarin: pen fileg: little bird
Garo amdir, ion-nin, iston bellithach: have faith, my son, you will be strong
Garo estel: have hope
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.