Estel: A Lord of the Rings Fan-Fiction Story

    

     Her skin was paler than the clouds that had shrouded Imladris from the sun these past months. She was fading from his grasp, like snow melting as it impacted his palm. “I choose a mortal life.” Darkness enclosed her. Her eyes groped over the walls of the room, not seeing, restless. A tear like a dying star slipped from Evenstar’s eyes. “I wish I could have seen him.” A small smile, resigned and patient, touched her face. “One last time.”

     Then she was slipping through his fingers, a small green gem falling to the hard earth, splintering into uncountable pieces…

     With a strangled yell Aragorn woke from the dream, blindly grasping for the hilt of his heavy-bladed knife, snatching at air as the world swam into focus again. The draping of the tent walls crowded in on him. The blanket of his pallet was tangled in his legs.

     “Sir?” A voice shook away the last nauseating pangs of the dream, and he looked up to see Eothain, one of the King’s Guard, bending through the tent’s flap. Cold night air brushed past him and Aragorn shuddered. The warrior, looking uneasily at Aragorn, muttered, “King Theoden awaits you,” and stepped outside.

     Aragorn shook his head to clear sleep from it and, standing unsteadily, followed Eothain out into the night. Exhaustion made a blur of the camp, and soon he was stooping to enter the king’s tent. The scent of pine torches mingled with the frost of the air carried on a gust of wind, and Aragorn shrugged his shirt closer to his shoulders. As he did so, the Evenstar brushed cold against his chest.

     He blinked, adjusting his eyes to the light and color of Theoden’s tent, made warm by tapestries. As he entered, Theoden straightened from speaking to a hunched figure seated in the back of the tent, obscured in the swathes of a dark cloak. Aragorn glanced from the king to the stranger in confusion.

     The king hesitated as he turned to Aragorn. He seemed to make a decision and, clasping his hands behind his back, he said briskly, “I take my leave,” and left the two alone.

     Feeling apprehensive, Aragorn watched as the figure rustled and rose,   coming to stand at a height greater than his own. Two pale hands rose to lift the hood and settle it on the stranger’s shoulders, revealing the figure’s face. A pair of eyes, dark and infinitely piercing, gazed out at him from the high, noble features of a face so familiar that Aragorn instantly bowed his head in respect. “My lord Elrond.”

     Elrond’s eyes were deep with grief, and their long gaze unsettled Aragorn further. When he spoke, it was in a voice that was slow and weighted down. “I come on behalf of one whom I love,” he said, then inhaled. “Arwen is dying.”

     A muscle flickered in Aragorn’s jaw and his irises shot wide like stars exploding to their deaths. When his heart stuttered to life again, it was an awakening to pain unlike anything he’d ever known.

     Elrond’s voice was now tangibly sorrowful. “She will not long survive the evil that now spreads from Mordor. The light of the Evenstar,” his eyes bored into the gem on Aragorn’s breast, “is failing. As Sauron’s power grows, her strength wanes. Arwen’s life is now tied to the fate of the Ring.”

     Again, Aragorn took a painful breath. In a voice bitter and somewhat sardonic, Elrond continued, “The Shadow is upon us, Aragorn. The end has come.”

     Arwen sank onto the grass of the hill beside him, her long dark hair flowing down to meet the elanor and niphredil thriving there. With eyes grey as the Twilight and stronger than the Shadow, she gazed into the West. “Dark is the Shadow,” she murmured, “and yet my heart rejoices, for you, Estel, shall be among the great whose valor will destroy it.”

     She always used the name he had known from his childhood; Elvish it was, Elvish for Hope. But his heart sank within at her words, and he felt the bitter fear that was becoming familiar to him. “I cannot forsee it,” he replied, “and how it may come to pass is hidden from me.”

     Her hand reached out to gently turn his face towards her. Her eyes were filled with hope,and they smiled into him, overflowing him with their warmth.

     He found himself smiling. “Yet with your hope, I will hope,” he said softly.

     Aragorn came back to stand before Elrond and felt a flame kindle in his heart at the Elf’s words. He looked up to meet Elrond’s eyes. “It will not be our end, but his,” he whispered, vehemence heating the words. Elrond gazed down on him with something akin to pity.

     “You ride to war, but not to victory,” he said in a measured voice. “Sauron’s armies march on Minas Tirith, as you know, but in secret he sends another force which will attack from the River. A fleet of corsair ships sails from the South. They will be in the city in two days.”

     Aragorn felt the life ebb out of his optimism.

     “You’re outnumbered, Aragorn,” Elrond continued emphatically, his voice like the deep-throated rolling of a funeral-bell. “You need more men.”

     Frustration struck Aragorn at Elrond’s words. He had poured out all of his energy and strength and knowledge to defend those in his hands until he felt drained and aged. What did Elrond expect from him? What more could he do? “There are none,” he grated.

     For the first time, Elrond’s wise and confident words came reluctantly. “There are those who dwell in the mountain.”

     The darkness of the dream gusted around Aragorn again as a violent wind enveloped the tent, sending his hair flying into his eyes. For a moment, the gruesome image of a murkily-green, transparent face leered towards him, bones protruding through the skin, teeth bared in a growl. Those who live in the mountain.

     The wind ceased and all was still. The image faded, leaving behind only traces of its ugliness imprinted in Aragorn’s eyelids. “Murderers,” he murmured, eyes filled with disgust as he looked back up at Elrond, “Traitors! You would call upon them to fight? They believe in nothing. They will answer to no one.”

     His words spurred fire behind Elrond’s eyes. “They will answer to the King of Gondor,” he responded, flinging aside his cloak to draw out the long, slim form of a sword and balance it across his hands. The blade was cloaked by a dark-blue sheath, but as Elrond moved forward, Aragorn recognised the hilt and stared at it in astonishment and bitter fear.

     “Anduril, Flame of the West, forged from the shards of Narsil,” the Elf continued, his voice glowing with the wonder of what he held; of the glory and nobility, the blood and battles, the lives and deaths staked upon the weapon in his hands. His eyes burned like the sparks of the blacksmith’s hammer on the broken blade, a light sprung from the shadows, a fire woken from ashes, as he stretched the sword out to Aragorn.

     Aragorn’s hands faltered as he reached towards it- to take the hilt of the ancestor whose blood stained his veins, noble blood mottled with weakness. To lay his hand where Isildur’s hand had rested before his corruption.

     “There is weakness, there is frailty. But there is courage, also, and honor to be found in men, but you will not see it!” Boromir’s voice stabbed him in the darkness of his fear and once again he felt the dying man’s gloved hand stroking his shoulder, clinging with waning strength to the one hope he had left: Estel. “It is over! The world of men will fall, and all will come to darkness, and my city to ruin.

     A promise had been born somewhere deep within Aragorn as he held Boromir in his arms and felt the gloved hand pressing his shoulder. His deep need to give Boromir peace had spurred the words to his lips and drew his will into them. He had strained against tears to speak clearly.“I do not know what strength is in me, but I swear to you, I will not let the White City fall. Nor our people fail.”

     A pale smile touched Boromir’s lips, a final peace as blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. “Our people–,”” he had whispered. “Our people.”

     Aragorn took the sword from Elrond’s hands.

     Anduril was heavy and cold, but when he took the hilt his hand molded to the leather-covered steel as though it was born to rest there. “Sauron will not have forgotten the sword of Elendil.” The words rose in his throat and he was speaking them without realizing it, whipping the sword free of its sheath and bringing it before his eyes, tip pointing to the roof of the tent. He held it there in wonder, between Elrond’s face and his own, as torchlight flickered in and out of the runes etched in the metal.

     “The blade that was broken shall return to Minas Tirith,” he murmured.

     Elrond’s voice tore his gaze away from the sword. “The man who can wield the power of this sword can summon to him an army more deadly than any that walks this earth,” he said, passion filling his voice. “Put aside the Ranger. Become who you were born to be. Take the Dimholt road.”

     Aragorn felt his strength vanish and the blade lower of its own volition as the one fear he had never been able to escape grappled him once more, strangling his courage and purpose. He was powerless, paralyzed under the chilled breath of its voice – he would fail, he would fall into the darkness forever; as did Isildur, he would succumb to the lure of the Shadow and never awaken. He could not tempt it – he would not – he had not the strength to resist.

     Then the voice of Elrond-the voice of the only father he could call to memory – broke the silence. “Onen i-Estel Edain,” was all that he whispered.

     Somewhere inside Aragorn’s heart, a memory ruptured to life. His breathing slowed until, in the silence, he could hear the hammering of his own pulse.

     “There may be a light beyond the darkness; and if so, I would have you see it and be glad.”

     He had felt the heaviness of Gilraen’s despair and sought to lift it, gently taking both her frail hands in his own. Gilraen gazed up into the eyes of her son, and gave to him her last smile, a fragile reflection of her beauty of earlier days. In a voice tender with maternal sacrifice and heavy with the grief of her approaching death, she whispered her last words to him. “Onen i-Estel Edain, u-chebin estel anim.” I give Hope to men; I keep no hope for myself.

     He felt the words once spoken in the softness of his mother’s voice fill his soul and tremble in his own throat. “U-chebin estel anim,” he echoed in a barely audible voice. He looked up, and the understanding he had known would be there gleamed in Elrond’s eyes. The same understanding filled him. He slid the tip of Anduril into its sheath and drew it shut.

     And Estel found he could see beyond the Shadow to the Hope of men, which he was born to carry in himself.
 
By Clare Therese
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