4. Chapter Four
The next morning after a light breaking of their fast, the three brothers were on their way once again, Elladan leading, as always. Estel rode beside him, Elrohir bringing up the rear. For a while, they rode in silence, then something that had been bothering Estel most of the night before finally triggered something within himself.
"Elladan? What did you see in Galadriel's mirror?"
Elladan turned to look at him, frowning slightly. "Estel, you know that Grandmother's mirror reveals what it will. And only what may happen. The reflections are not always really what come to pass."
Estel groaned. Elladan was growing more like Ada by the hour. "I know that. But what I want to know is what you saw. It might help me in the future. If I have some forewarning of what might happen, I can be better prepared."
Elladan sighed. This was not to Estel's advantage. The future was not set in stone. It changed as the river changed its flow when blocked by stone or log. Many things could hinder the events of the future, least of all telling Estel what he wanted to know. But he knew his brother. He would not give up with his questions until he heard the answers he wanted.
"Estel...the things I saw are not things that will come to bear. Only things that might," he said emphasizing the possibilities that the future changed from moment to moment.
"Tell me," Estel demanded, reminding Elladan much of Arathorn, Estel's Father.
"I saw you traveling with another through the Wilds. I cannot tell if this is a man or a woman. Friend or foe. But you are dependent on this person. And they are dependent upon you. The images changed then and I viewed you in a glade. With Arwen. She had tears on her cheeks."
"They could be happy tears," Estel said.
"What else? You spoke of the trials I must face. What of those? Did the mirror show you these things?"
"Estel...I really must not tell you more. What good will it do to tell you of things that may never come to fruition?"
"And what if I am to choose between two paths and your insight is wise? Shouldn't I be made aware of the possibilities? They could mean the difference."
"Even if the path you chose is false because of what I divulge to you now? What if your choice is wrong? What then Estel?"
"Then it will be on my head, brother. Not yours."
"This discussion will have to wait. Riders approach," Elrohir said, coming abreast with the other two riders.
Elladan glanced ahead and found that what Elrohir said was true. There was dust hanging in the air on the horizon. They would have just enough time to get off the road into the bushes before the riders were able to see them. Thankfully, Elves had keen eyesight. If the approaching riders meant to do them some kind of harm, they would be able to avoid them. There was no need to confront them.
Quietly, they headed off into the brush by the side of the road, dismounting. Two sets of keen eyes watched the road, while the other scanned the dense foliage around them, searching for an escape route, should they have need of one.
A firm hand touched Estel's arm. He glanced over to find Elladan motioning to the riders on the road. Estel looked at them and nodded. He recognized the elder ranger who led the riders. It was Aron and his company of rangers. They wouldn't need the escape route he had found after all. Silently, Estel swung up into the saddle. He followed Elladan and Elrohir onto the road, staying just behind them.
"Mae govannen, Aron, son of Aradol," Elladan said, his right hand raised in greeting.
"Greetings, Elladan. You are early. We did not expect you 'til the morrow."
Elladan smiled. "No. You are late. You should have anticipated we would arrive sooner than planned."
Aron laughed. "So you have a sense of humor after all, Elladan. Elrohir, good to see you again, my friend. Estel....come out here. Boy, you have grown since last we met."
"I am no boy," Estel said, easing his horse forward to meet with the seasoned leader of the rangers.
"Estel," Elladan warned. The elder ranger deserved respect.
Estel glanced at him, his eyes hardened, but he moved back, accepting Elladan's unspoken order. Aron saw the looks between brothers and wondered what they had been all about. Estel, Elrohir and Elladan were close, hardly ever quarreling. To see a rift, however small between them was highly out of the ordinary. Besides, Estel was acting unusually strange. "We should get off the road. Make camp. There is much to discuss."
Elladan bowed his head and with a wave of his hand led the company of rangers into the brush. Within minutes, they happened upon a clearing suitable for a camp. In silence, the rangers prepared their camp with the precision of a well trained army. There were no wasted movements, no idle talk. Everything they did was focused on the task at hand.
Estel, gathering firewood, watched out of the corner of his eye as one of the rangers headed for a small stream that ran through the clearing. The ranger was young, perhaps about his own age, with a slender build. He was average in height, possibly a few inches shorter than Estel. He was fleet of foot, moving with a grace that was known to Elves. If it hadn't been for a peek of flame colored hair from under the hooded cloak, Estel would have thought this young man to be an Elf.
"That is Thurin," Aron said from beside Estel, startling him. He had come up to the young man unheard, which was unusual. He had never known Estel not to hear someone approach.
"He moves as well as an Elf," Estel said, his eyes still following the young ranger.
"Aye, that he does. He has had dealings with the Elves of Mirkwood. His family comes from the hills near Ered Mithrin."
"The Grey Mountains?" Estel asked, eyeing the back of the ranger in question.
"Do not let his young countenance deceive you, Estel. Thurin has been battling Orcs for many seasons. He is our best archer and only second best to Halbarad with the sword."
Estel looked at Aron with a slight grin. "You admit this young man is better than you?"
"Maybe not in all things, but with a bow and the sword, yes, he's better."
Estel looked back at the young ranger, a gleam in his eye. He would have to test his own abilities against the man. He was well versed in the art of sword fighting thanks to Glorfindel. And he had been told that his archery skills rivaled that of his brothers. It would be interesting to see how he fared against Thurin.
"Come, Estel," Aron said, clasping the young man on his back. "We have much to discuss, according to the dispatch I received from Elladan."
Estel eyed Aron wondering what he meant by that. Did he know about his heritage? Had Elladan divulged his secret? Nodding, he followed the older ranger back to the fire circle, his arms full of kindling. He dumped the wood beside the circle and settled next to Elrohir on the grass.
"Do you know what was in the letter Elladan sent to Aron?" Estel asked, his voice a low whisper.
Elrohir stared at him, his eyebrow raised. "I would not know, Estel. Elladan does not tell me everything."
Estel raised his own eyebrow at that. He knew for a fact that Elladan and Elrohir had no secrets between the two of them. If one knew something, so did the other. "I doubt that, Elrohir. Elladan tells you everything. We both know that."
"If you want to know what he wrote, you should sit here and listen to what is said."
Estel groaned. It was bad enough that Elladan was emulating their Father; did Elrohir have to follow that same path? Having one Father was enough. Now he was going to have three.
"So Elladan, your letter states you have some important news for the Dúnedain," Aron said, settling upon the grass. "And that Estel wishes to join us once again."
"We do have important news and yes, Estel wishes to re-join your company. Though I think we should discuss this in private," Elladan said, glancing around at the other rangers Aron brought with him.
Aron followed the quick glance Elladan gave the other men with him. He understood his reluctance. "They can be trusted, Elladan. I give you my word. Anything you say within this circle will remain here. Unless you deem otherwise."
Elladan looked at Estel. It was his secret to divulge, so it was his decision. Estel looked around the gathered company and measured their worth as he met their eyes. His gaze lingered over young Thurin and found the startling blue eyes honest under his gaze. Looking back at Elladan, he nodded. He trusted Aron and if he trusted the men gathered around the circle, then so must he.
"Eighteen years ago the Dúnedain lost its chieftain, Lord Arathorn, to a battle with the darkness that threatens our land. Today we bring you a new leader," Elladan explained, his eyes grazing over Estel.
"What? You have brought us a new chieftain? Who? This boy?" asked a middle aged ranger with light brown hair. He had high cheekbones and a square jaw, a scar from his right ear to his upper lip.
Elladan stared at the ranger that had spoken and his eyes narrowed. "I do not expect you to understand, Gaelon. You were not there when Arathorn was killed."
"No, but I, Balharn, was. I want to know how you expect us to follow such a young lad, Elladan."
Estel looked at the man sitting beside him. The man was beginning to show his age, a slight amount of grey threading through his beard. He could understand why the man questioned Elladan. It must be hard for a ranger the age of this one to accept a much younger leader. He appeared to be about the age of Aron, seeing at least four times the amount of years as he held. Neither man looked his age, thanks to the blood that ran through their veins.
But he was the son of Arathorn, the rightful leader of the Dúnedain. "I understand your hesitance," Estel said, looking at each one of the men in the circle. "But I have come to learn the ways of my Father. I have come to learn from you."
Balharn eyed Estel, searching his face for answers. "Aye. You speak truthfully. And you do have the look of your father. I knew him well, and believed him to be a wise and thoughtful leader. I accept you, son of Arathorn. I will teach you all I know."
Estel bowed his head respectfully to the ranger. "I thank you, Balharn."
"Then it is settled. Estel will become a part of my company until we return to the encampment and we speak to Halbarad. Though, I believe we had best come up with a different name for him. Estel is known as the son of Elrond."
"He cannot use his true name. He is in constant danger from the Enemy. He must be protected," Elrohir pointed out.
"May I make a suggestion, Captain?" Thurin asked. "He takes long strides when he walks. We should call him Strider."
Aron thought about it, eyeing Estel as he contemplated the suggestion. "Sound advice, Thurin. Strider, it is."
Estel glanced about the circle, a smile on his lips. "Strider," he tested. "I like it."
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.