1. I Will Be Your Memory
Pausing behind a bush at the edge of the small clearing, Elrohir studied the lone figure, who sat without moving, his shoulders slumped despondently. So still was he that had Elrohir not known better, he would have sworn that some skilled sculptor had decided to grace this particular rock with his perfect art. The young man clutched his light cloak around himself to ward off the slight chill of early autumn and his eyes were transfixed on, but not really seeing, the idly flowing water of the creek.
Unsure of whether he should disturb the man’s silent contemplation, Elrohir paused a moment too long. Without moving, the figure spoke to him. “I know you are there, Elrohir. What I do not know is why you have come, for there is naught you can say to ease my burdened heart.”
Having lived near three thousand years, Elrohir was rarely taken by surprise. Yet, he was surprised now. He had approached as stealthily as his considerable skill and inherent ability would allow. Truly no mortal should have been able to detect his presence, yet somehow Estel had known he was there. The young man’s ever-growing abilities never ceased to impress him.
Stepping forward from the undergrowth and tenderly placing a hand upon Estel’s shoulder, Elrohir spoke softly. “Perhaps there is not, but I have come to listen if you are willing to speak, for it is my experience that a burden shared is often a burden lessened.”
Estel stiffened and pulled away from Elrohir’s touch. He turned angry grey eyes toward the one he had considered a brother. “You knew, you have always known! It seems as though everyone near to me has known—my fath…Lord Elrond, Elladan, Glorfindel, Erestor, my mother—everyone has known who I truly am, everyone but I! My whole life till now has been a lie.”
“Your life has not been a lie, Estel. There is no lie in the love that we feel for you nor in our ardent desire to protect you from harm. Your grandfather, Arador was slain by hill-trolls one year before your birth and your father, Arathorn, was taken by orcs a mere three years later.” After eighteen years of secrecy, Elrohir felt it a great relief to finally speak freely the names of Estel’s fore fathers. “Father believed that the Enemy was actively hunting the heirs of Isildur in an attempt to eliminate all of his line. For your protection, you had to be hidden and your identity concealed while you were young and vulnerable”
Estel’s response was cold and distant. “While I do not question the need to conceal the last heir in the line of Isildur in his youth, I do not understand why it was necessary to keep my true identity from me.”
Elrohir sat himself beside Estel and looked at him intently, pleading for his understanding. “Father, in his wisdom, believed it was necessary. Ever has he done what he thought best for you.”
“What he thought best for me or best for the protection of a valuable heir?”
“They are one and the same. You are that valuable heir, that descendant of kings. Throughout your childhood ever have I seen the evidence of your high lineage, the nobility of your spirit, in all that you do. You did not need to know of your title to show your kingly qualities.”
While Elrohir’s words were meant to comfort, Estel felt the sting of betrayal. “Have you been grooming a would-be king, Elrohir? Is that what you have been doing through the years of my childhood as you counseled me, taught me and called me your brother? Was that your father’s purpose as well? Why did the Lord Elrond feel the need to call me his son? Why was this charade of a loving family necessary to protect and train the next chieftain of the Dunedain?”
Elrohir shook his head in denial and began to speak, softly and sadly. “Estel…”
In his anger, hurt and confusion, Estel cut off the words. “Do not call me that! That is not my name and that is not who I am!”
“Your real name is Aragorn, but you are hope, not only to the Dunedain, but also to this family. Never question our love for you.” Elrohir adopted a tone that allowed no argument. “We took you into our home because of your lineage, but we quickly grew to love you for who you are.”
Elrohir could not help but smile as an image sprang to his mind of his stately father in formal robes trying to contain an energetic, giggling and squirming toddler. “I believe I once told you that no one could resist your charms for long. That certainly was true of our father. He was smitten from the first time he held you in his arms.”
Estel knew in his heart that he could not deny the truth of Elrohir’s words. Lord Elrond had always been there for him, to offer his love, his wisdom, his support and, when necessary, his gentle discipline. Ever had he been the loving father.
Estel drew in a sharp breath as suddenly he gained an insight into the true source of his distress. He turned sharp eyes on Elrohir. “But why did Lord Elrond deem it necessary to keep from me all knowledge of my father, while at the same time usurping my father’s rightful place in my heart?”
Elrohir was caught off guard by this query. “It was never his intention to take the place of your father. When you first came to Imladris as a young child, you were scared, distressed and confused by your loss. There was a void in your life that needed to be filled and my father gladly took on that role.”
“That void was created through your father’s prohibition! A child has the right to know of his father, whether his father be living or dead. I have no memory of mine. Usually, when a man dies, the memory of him is kept alive through tales of his deeds, through laughter over his jests and sorrow over his pains. Through the telling of the stories of his life may his loved ones remember him and keep him close. Your father’s ban on any mention of my lineage has robbed me of the opportunity to know my father. No one would speak of him, and my child’s mind conjured up the worst. He became but a phantom in my mind.”
Greatly moved by the truth of Estel’s words, Elrohir responded in earnest. “Your father was no phantom. You may not remember him, but I have been blessed and cursed with the memory of the elves. Eighteen years is but the blink of an eye to me. I can remember him as clearly as if he were sitting here before me now. While I can not atone for a childhood deprived of all knowledge of your father, I can help you to know him now. Ask of me the answers you seek and I shall do my best to be your memory.”
Estel felt immense gratitude for the opportunity to gain a greater knowledge of his father, but he found that he was at a loss and could find no specific question to ask. So instead, he pleaded: “Just speak of him to me, Elrohir. Bring him back with your words. Show me that he did once truly live.”
Closing his eyes, Elrohir brought forth the memories he sought, and it was as if almost two decades had been striped away and Arathorn stood before him. A sad smile graced Elrohir’s lips.
“He lived, Estel, your father truly lived. He was a dear friend. You are much like him, in your eyes, in your bearing, in your serious demeanor. For Arathorn was stern and worn down by care, yet he was also noble, intelligent, and honourable, much as you are. He was a very good leader of men and well loved by his people. Those under his command would have followed him to the ends of Arda had he asked it of them. He was good in battle, a skilled tactician and a strong fighter. Ever did he seek out and engage the Enemy fearlessly, and always could I trust my back to him in battle.”
Elrohir’s smile brightened and he opened his eyes to look at Estel as he continued. “In those rare times he allowed himself some ease, he could be quite the story teller and the spinner of tall tales that kept many a young ranger amused around the campfire. He had a fondness for the ale and the pipe weed of the Periannath.” Elrohir grimaced at the recollection of the foul smelling smoke. “A habit, I am glad to say, he did not manage to pass on to his son.”
“When he was with his family, I saw a different side of him. He was tender, gentle and loving. He loved your mother dearly and when he became a father, his pride and love for you knew almost no bounds.”
Here Elrohir paused, sighing dramatically and rolling his eyes in a most unelven manner. “After you came along, Arathorn seemed unable to speak of anything else. For the first two years of your life, ever were Elladan and I subjected to tales of your latest exploits, from your first smile, to your first steps, to your first babbled words. Arathorn’s smiles were rare, and usually they were reserved for his family.”
Estel turned his head away in an effort to conceal the tears that were forming in his eyes. For the first time in the lifetime he could remember, his father felt real to him.
Elrohir placed an arm on his shoulder and gently turned Estel to face him once again. “If your father could see you now, I tell you truly that he would be very proud and most pleased to call you his son.”
Though his eyes were still wet with tears, Estel smiled brightly. “Thank-you Elrohir. You have given to me a greater gift than you will ever know.”
Elrohir returned his smile. “You are most welcome, little brother.”
Suddenly remembering the precious package he bore for Estel, Elrohir removed the small pouch he carried on his belt. “Speaking of gifts, I brought something for you that I thought you might now like to have.”
Upon opening the pouch, Estel found a beautiful silver and mithril broach fashioned in the shape of a star with seven points. He admired the skilled craftsmanship of the intricate pin and looked to Elrohir for an explanation.
“It was Arathorn’s broach and his father’s before him. I give it to you as a token to remember him by.”
Estel nodded and smiled in gratitude as he carefully fastened the broach to his cloak on his left breast, above where his heart lay. “Thank-you again, my brother.”
Elrohir looked about him at the lengthening shadows. “The afternoon draws on and the sun will soon begin its descent.” Standing and offering his hand to his foster bother, Elrohir continued: “Will you not now return to our home with me, for father is surely concerned for your welfare and you must be growing hungry.”
Estel remained seated on his rocky perch and shook his head. “Nay, I wish to ponder your words in solitude for a while more yet.”
“Well, stay for a time if you must, but do not tarry too long. You would not wish to miss the feast that father is planning this eve in honour of our loved one who has just this day returned to us after a long absence.”
Estel looked at his brother in confusion. “I know of no guest. Of whom do you speak?”
Elrohir gave Estel another of his enigmatic smiles and said simply: “You will meet her soon enough.”
With a wink, Elrohir turned, silently blending into the surrounding foliage, and in an instant he was gone, leaving Estel again to his solitude. Estel could not help but smile at his brother’s antics as he shook his head and whispered under his breath. “Elves! Can they never answer a question directly?”
He had to admit, though, that his brother had once again helped to ease his mood and lighten his heart. Estel rose from the place where he had long sat and wandered alone through the woods, enjoying the beauty of the day, and he felt such joy that he began to sing from the Lay of Luthien, which for some reason seemed the appropriate choice.
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.