1. Just A Way-Station
"'But let us not be overthrown in the final test, who of old renounced the Shadow and the Ring. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! We are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. Farewell!'"
"'Estel, Estel!' she cried, and with that even as he took her hand and kissed it, he fell into sleep."
It seemed but no time at all before his eyes opened again. Yet…"eyes opened"? Had he eyes? Should he have eyes? He looked down and saw…nothing. No body, which was only what he had expected. Yet, he still saw. Or, perhaps, "saw"; he suspected that he had knowledge now that his mind and fea could not – as yet, if ever – interpret save in the old, familiar terms, as sight and hearing and feeling.
He looked – or maybe "looked"; it was all one at the moment – up again, and around him. There was only darkness, but visible-seeming darkness. He shivered – or felt that he shivered, although he had nothing to shiver with; he had been a good man, good king, good husband, good father. Not perfect, he did not imagine that, but as good as he could manage. This could not be the Void; surely he had done nothing to deserve that.
A figure stood before him. He could not say that it appeared; one moment it had not been there, and the next it had, as if it had always been. It was taller than any Man, and wore robes that were as dark as its surroundings, but were somehow visible against them. The robe was hooded, and the hood hid the whole head, even the face; but looking at it left the impression that there were eyes deep within those shadows, eyes bluer than any Rider of the Mark or scion of Hador had ever possessed. One hand held what might been a staff, or might have a scepter, and the hand that held it was white, thin yet strong-seeming; there was no question but that that hand could reach through any protection, past any weapon, touch any opponent and leave a deserved mark upon him.
He felt that he nodded. This was not the form that had been spoken of in Middle-earth, but he knew that the Valar had no hroar, and that their fanyar were many; some preferred, but none beyond their doing, if they so desired. This could be none but Namo, oft called Mandos, Doomsman of the Valar. Those who were accounted wise spoke of how the fear of Elves were gathered to the Halls of Mandos, to be re-embodied in Aman or to remain there until the End. Those who were accounted very wise spoke of how the fear of Men went to those Halls, but after a brief time of contemplation left them again, and traveled beyond Ea to a fate unknown.
Namo did nothing that could be interpreted as speech, but with his free hand gestured. There seemed no difference to the darkness in the direction in which he gestured, but there could be no doubt that he pointed to a road, and that at the end of that road was a destination.
The journey may have taken some time. There was no day or night here; he did not tire, or hunger or thirst, or feel any other bodily need – having no body, that was hardly surprising. Without those things, though, he had no way to judge the passage of time – if indeed it passed. There was a beginning, and then the journey, that was all that he could say.
And now there was an ending. Before him were great Gates, many times the height of a Man. He thought of the Morannon, but there was no feeling of works turned against the purposes of their creators, of evil entrapped or besieged, or cowering behind protection until it judged the time propititious to surge outward and cover the lands with darkness. These gates were open; if their aspect was not welcoming, neither was it threatening or forbidding; it seem to say, "Enter, if you like; what you see will be according to your strength". He accepted what was not meant as a challenge, but merely a statement, and walked within.
He felt the difference. Here there was darkness, no less profound than elsewhere, but this was enclosed darkness; there were no walls, no roof that he could perceive, but somehow he felt that they must be there. It seemed that he turned, and there were no Gates there, nothing but more of the enclosed darkness. He felt himself frown, and then shrug; the Gates had not been real, in the way that the substance of Arda was real. They were but a symbol, and once he had accepted their challenge, neither he nor they had more use for the other, and so they ceased to be. He resumed what he thought of as walking forward.
After a time – and it seemed to be less of a time than his former journey had taken, although he could not say how he came to this conclusion – he saw three seats, very mighty ones. Not thrones, though; he himself had sat on one long enough to know the difference. But a little while, and he could tell that they were occupied.
The middle seat was the largest and grandest, and the figure that occupied it was also the largest and grandest of the three. No fanya or hroa this; he knew that this was how one fea appeared to another, without being filtered through mere matter, but perceived in a form that one intended to be an incarnate could comprehend. Raven-haired and silvery-eyed, the face had an aspect of ageless, masculine beauty, whilst the body was so perfectly proportioned that it was not until one looked at the other two figures that one realized that it was far beyond the stature of mortal Men.
The figure to its right was that of an aging, graying blond with hot, sulky eyes. Although he knew somehow that it was taller than the Men of his days, with broad shoulders and deep chest in proportion, it still looked, in comparison to the central figure, as if it were some princeling sitting next to his royal father for show and ceremony.
The third figure…he realized with amazement, not unmingled with fear, that he knew it, although he had not seen the flesh whose aspect it had in lifetimes of lesser men. Tall and dark-eyed, with ivory skin streched over proud bones and a long, curved nose…the figure looked up from its lap and smiled, a smile without cruelty or malice, but also without sympathy or affection, and spoke.
"Welcome, Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elfstone, Renewer, Far-strider, to this way-station on the journey to your long home", said Denethor son of Echthelion, once Ruling Steward of Gondor.
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.