2. Chapter Two
Aragorn sat in his chair, waiting for Arwen to return so they could spend a quiet moment alone before retiring. She was right about the morrow being a busy day. He had to ride out and inspect the garrison in the morning. And in the afternoon, he was hosting a few foreign dignitaries from Bard II, King of Dale and Thorin III Stonehelm, King under the Mountain. Then, if that didn't make the day busy enough, there was a state dinner that evening to attend. It was going to be a very busy day, indeed. One that if he hadn't been obligated to attend to, he probably wouldn't.
Sighing, he stood from his chair and headed for the balcony. The stars were out already and he stood there, at the stone railing, staring up into the night sky. Eärendil, the brightest star in the sky, was already shining brightly over Gondor.
Faintly, Aragorn remembered a tale from his childhood about how Eärendil, although a man, had chosen to be judged as one of the Firstborn, for the sake of his wife, Elwing, who was the Mother of Elros, his ancestor and Elrond, his foster Father, the twin of Elros. It was a true testament of love, for Eärendil much desired to remain with the people of his Father. Upon that decision, Eärendil was taken, on his ship, Vingilot, through Valinor to the Door of the Night and into the Heavens. His wife, Elwing, fearing the cold of the Void, decided not to sail the stars with her husband, but remained in a tower close to the Earth.
A movement on the terrace caught his eye and Aragorn looked below to find Arwen crossing into the gardens, the skirts of her silk dress rustling around her ankles. Smiling, he leaned against the stone, watching her as she moved gracefully through the hedges. She was as beautiful as ever. He could still recall the days after his first meeting with her, when his Mother had warned him that his choice was not right for him.
"You are setting yourself up for a fall, my son. This Lady you have set your heart upon is the finest of all that walk upon this Earth. She is far above your sights. Do not set yourself up for heart break."
Even now, after all these years, he could hear those words ringing in his ears. But what made matters worse, was that his Father had found out about his desire of Arwen.
Pulling him aside one day in the autumn, Elrond explained that he would have no wife until he proved his worth. Not even the fair Arwen. Aragorn had smiled sadly, hugging his Father. It was too much to bear, seeing Arwen every day, knowing he could not tell her of his love, so he bade them all, Elrond, his Mother and Arwen, a fond farewell and headed into the Wilds.
Aragorn smiled at the memory. He now knew that Elrond had foreseen this in his future. That he had seen all that would confront him, all that he would accomplish in his quest to become King of Gondor. And he had seen the marriage between Arwen and himself. Had he also seen all that would transpire from their first meeting until their pledge upon Cerin Amroth in Lothlórien? Had he seen the trials and tribulations he had faced during the nearly thirty years he had been absent from Rivendell? Were the dangers he placed himself in, trying to forget the woman he loved revealed to the Elf Lord? Had he seen the woman that had made him finally forget Arwen?
Aragorn followed Arwen with his eyes, wondering if Father had ever told her of his travels in the Wilds, or his service to the King of Rohan or the Steward of Gondor. Had he told her about his meeting with Feorh, eldest daughter of Thengel, sister to Theódyn? And what of Eámanë Súrion, Legolas' new bride? She was a large part of who he was now.
Then there remained the question of Laeriel Oranor. Did Arwen know about her? The one woman that had been able to make him forget Arwen, if only for a time. Had Elrond told his daughter of the only other woman Aragorn had ever loved?
Aragorn watched Arwen until she disappeared from sight, then he turned and headed back inside. He glanced through the open door to the throne room at the opulent chair on the dais and sighed, the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Some nights, like tonight, he had to wonder if he had made the right decision in asking Arwen to stay with him, instead of going across the sea like Father had wanted her to do. Had he made the right choices? Being King was more responsibility than he had ever anticipated. And it was mainly boring. What he wouldn't give for one more adventure, to feel the wind on his face, the ground hard under his feet, to feel the adrenaline rushing through his veins.
Aragorn sighed. There was no use in indulging in regrets. There was no turning back even if he had wanted to. He had made his choice, as had Arwen, years ago, when Arda was in danger of falling into ruin for all time. He had chosen to follow his path, his destiny, and there was no room for remorse. Besides if he put aside all the boring state matters that he had to attend to, life as King was hardly a burden.
He turned on his heel and headed for the balcony. Surely, Arwen was returning from her late walk by now. He glanced down into the gardens and found them empty. Where was she? He closed his eyes and listened for her movements, the training he had as a ranger still inbred deep within him. Smiling, he heard her. It was obvious she wanted him to. She was still an Elf and if she had wanted to avoid him, she could.
When she appeared in the garden courtyard, he headed for the stairs, taking them down to the stone path that led to the gardens. As his foot touched the stone, he felt her hand gently touch his arm. Glancing up, he smiled at her.
"You were gone a while, my love," he said, leaning in to kiss her cheek.
"I was thinking about the story you were telling the children. The one of our first meeting in the gardens of Rivendell."
"One of the happiest days of my life," Aragorn said, touching his hand to her soft cheek. Even nine and seventy years after that day, she remained untouched by age. She was as beautiful now as she had been then.
"Mine as well. Only...."
"Only what?" he asked, staring into her grey eyes.
"When you speak of this time, I know you are leaving something out, Estel. I just wish I knew what it was."
Aragorn sighed. He knew he would never be able to keep this from her forever. It was a wonder that she hadn't found out before now. Or did she know and she was testing him? Had Father told her? Had she seen this for herself? He knew she had the gift of foresight. Had she seen him during those years when he had been away?
"What do you want to know, Arwen?" he asked, leading her to a stone bench.
"I want to know about her. The woman you can't forget, Estel. I know there is someone. I have seen her in my waking dreams."
Aragorn lowered his head. The thing he dreaded most was happening. Arwen knew about Laeriel. Somehow she knew. She had the foresight of her people and now he had to tell her the truth about her. He had to tell her about Laeriel and fill in the blanks for her.
"What have you seen?" he asked.
Arwen turned to face him, her hands in his. She sighed, finally meeting his eyes. "I have seen you love this woman, Estel. You loved her for a time. Loved her and forgot of me."
Aragorn shook his head, tears forming in the corners of his eyes. "Arwen......"
"I understand, Estel. I understand that loving me, as you did then, must have hurt, and must have been unbearable. I am glad that you found someone to help you to forget that pain. But now that we are together; now that we have children, I must know the truth. I must know if you still love this woman."
"This could be painful for you. It is better left where it is; in the past, forgotten," Aragorn told her, standing from the bench, his back to her.
He felt her arms go around his waist, felt her head on his back. "But Estel, it's not forgotten. She is there, between us. She has been for years. I don't want to lose you to a memory. Please, tell me about her, about the two of you together. Help me to bury the past, once and for all," she pleaded.
Aragorn nodded, his hands finding hers at his waist. "You are right. It's time you learned the truth about the time we spent apart."
Aragorn turned and sat on the bench, pulling her down beside him. He sat there for a moment, contemplating how he was going to tell her all she wanted to hear and some things she may not. Sighing, he decided the best course would be to start from the beginning. From the moment he had left Rivendell.
Estel waited until the evening meal was over before he approached his Mother. She had not been well as of late and he knew she would be retiring soon. He had to speak with her before she turned in, knowing he would not see her again for some time.
"Mother, I would like to speak with you for a moment, if I may," he said, matching his strides to hers.
"Estel. Of course, my son. You know my time is always yours, should you have need of it."
"I am leaving in the morning."
Suddenly, she stopped, turning to stare up at him. She watched his face for some time before she spoke. "Where will you go?"
"To the North, to my Father's people. It is time I learned who I really am," Estel said, looking toward the trees.
"This is because of her, isn't it? Arwen is driving you away?" she said, tears slipping down her cheeks.
Estel looked down at her, wiping the tears away with the pad of his thumb. He knew she would be upset, knew she would place blame on Arwen, but this was his choice, his decision. He had to go. If he was who Elrond said he was, he had much to learn. Much more than he had already learned. His Mother would just have to learn to understand.
"I am leaving because I am the heir to a throne I know nothing about. I am leaving because I have to learn things from the men that knew my Father. There is much I need to discover, Mother. You know this."
She sighed. "I know, Estel. I don't have to like it."
Estel brushed his hand across her cheek, smiling through his own tears as she covered his hand with hers. Closing her eyes, she knew she had to let him go. He was no longer a boy. He was a man and he had to find his way.
"If you were asking my blessing, you have it, Estel."
"Thank you, Mother. Come, I will walk you to your rooms."
Smiling, she shook her head. "I would like to be alone for a while. I know you must have others to see tonight."
Estel smiled in return. He placed a light kiss on her cheek, and then bowed to her before walking away. As he walked into the autumn trees on the other side of the garden, his Mother sighed. He was heading to see Arwen.
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.