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These Scribblings will have
1. Canonic pairings.
2. All genres.
3. All characters.
4. Rating as high as PG-13 (but not completely likely).
5. Chapters of varying lengths.
6. Characters from entire Tolkien Legendarium.
The word ‘fledgling’ was an insult.
It was an informal term for newly recruited Rangers, just as ‘raven’ was the word for an experienced Ranger. The man passing in front of Faramir and his comrades was sprightly for someone in his fifties. He was also spewing insults at every man he passed by until he reached Faramir.
It took everyone in the Citadel and beyond by surprise when Faramir decided to join the Rangers. Usually the sons of the Stewards of old went on to knighthood. But Faramir opted for the Rangers. Denethor was surprised, wary but not displeased. He didn’t say it, but Faramir thought he didn’t need to. His father was a man of few words. He managed to convey his thoughts to those around him just by varying degrees of silence. In the case of his decision, his father’s silence was more thoughtful.
“It isn’t what most Stewards choose in their youth,” his father had said at last. “But if your heart desires then by all means, do so. Maybe it will be for the best. But remember it will not be easy. Men will resent your for your higher rank, and it will take you time to befriend them, just as it took Boromir time. And remember in the end, you are their leader, not their friend.”
Sometimes Faramir wondered if his father ever heard himself give advice. A part of his advice sounded like it came from him as it would come from a father, the other part sounded like it came from a ruler polishing his sword for battle and power. Still his father loved him and that was the best way he could show his love.
“And you,” the man sneered, bringing his face right in front of Faramir’s own. The man smelled of smoke but underneath it he had a clean earthy scent of the forest. “If you think you could grace yourself with your high presence in our low lot then remember this, fledgling, everyone has the same level underground.”
Faramir made no reply but held his eyes. He kept strength in his gaze, but no challenge. Boromir often wondered how he knew the best response but to Faramir it came simply as instinct. The man finally broke his gaze and stepped away.
It turned out later that the man was a raven who cowed even the hardiest of Rangers, but held in great respect among the high officers. He never became an officer, nor did he want to for his own reasons, but Faramir’s manners around him were legendary. He was fond of the cane that he used to whack fledglings on tardiness, foolishness and everything else in short. But the man grudgingly kept his hand off his cane when it came to Faramir. They all knew Denethor had nothing to do with it. The Steward kept a disinterested and impassive air when it came to whatever punishment the officers handed out his sons.
The months passed and they found a wolf cub abandoned from its pack. It was vicious for a thing so small. It snapped at anyone who came close, bit hard on an unsuspecting Ranger’s body where it hurt the most. It was wounded, so it could not survive the wild without help and they decided to kill it.
“Don’t,” Faramir said, stopping a comrade’s longbow from releasing. A familiar cane hit him hard on his knuckles but Faramir refused to let go. “Let me try.”
The cub snarled at him, bit his fingers and scratched him till it drew blood. So it went on till it grew into a bad-tempered wolf, but now the teeth and claws were meant for anyone Faramir deemed enemy.
“Well, I’ll be,” this was the first time Faramir heard wonder in the raven’s voice who mocked him the first day as a Ranger. He tapped his cane on his boot. “You have a way, fledgling, with man and beast. It is a skill I have not seen in my entire life but was spoken of in history.”
“Father possesses the same skill,” Faramir said mildly, ignoring the wolf curled about his waist on the ground. He bent his knees and wrapped his hands about it. The man scoffed.
“The Lord Steward possesses the skill with only men, but not with beast.” The raven picked up his cane and Faramir momentarily tensed. Sensing his mood, the wolf emitted a low warning growl but the man only pressed the end of his cane against Faramir’s chest, right on top of his heart. “Take care of that heart, boy.” The man said. “That heart is the reason why man and beast love you.”
One evening, Sam came into the study and found his master looking very strange. He was very pale and his eyes seemed to see things far away.
“What’s the matter, Mr Frodo?” said Sam.
“I am wounded,” he answered, “wounded; it will never fully heal.”
Time went on, and 1421 came in. Frodo was ill again in March, but with great effort he concealed it, for Sam had other things to think about. The first of Sam and Rosie’s children was born on the twenty-fifth of March, a date that Sam noted.
(Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)
(Both excerpts from Chapter: The Grey Havens)
He knew why he was ill. The day when Shelob poisoned him always brought upon him sickness. He rubbed his face wearily and quietly covered the food Rose had painstakingly put together for him. She didn’t know of his ill health and he made no effort to enlighten her. She fussed when Sam wasn’t there to do so. He tried to make her rest, heavy with child as she was, but she waved away his concerns. Their worry for him was greater. In truth, he was not fatally ill. The fever passed eventually. He laughed, and smiled, and took part in merrymaking, but he simply felt weary, like he needed rest that eluded him.
The wound never fully healed, and the poison never fully left his body. Being ill on the same day as he had been in the year before meant this would recur every year, probably for the rest of his life. The door opened and Sam came in. His face was light with joy and a bundle of blankets rested in his arms.
“It’s a girl, Mister Frodo,” Sam said happily. Frodo remained seated and smiled up to his old friend. He parted the blankets carefully and looked down at the new born, fast asleep in her father’s arms. Her cheeks were rosy red with small pink lips puckered outwards and a tuft of brown hair on her head.
“She’s beautiful, Sam.” Frodo said, smiling and briefly forgetting his illness.
This was what they fought for.
When Denethor became Steward he proved a masterful lord, holding the rule of all things in his own hand. He said little. He listened to counsel, and then followed his own mind. He had married late, taking as wife Finduilas, daughter of Adrahil of Dol Amroth.
Denethor loved her, in his fashion, more dearly than any other….
(Lord of the Rings: Appendix A)
He was too old for her, Imrahil thought with worry building in his chest.
He did not approve his father’s choice for his sister Finduilas’ husband. Then again, one cannot simply refuse the proposal of the Steward’s son. And Finduilas’ rank as princess made the match more than worthy. But Finduilas was so different in manner from Denethor!
Finduilas was young and lively, full of smiles and easy grace, happy with the free life by the Sea. But Denethor was grim, silent and a man of few words and many thoughts. His mouth was often set in solemn straight line and the man clearly aged before his time.
“Take good care of her,” Imrahil said suddenly. The wind blew on their faces where they both stood on the balcony. Denethor wordlessly turned and regarded him, his cloak whipping about him. As expected, the Steward’s son said nothing. But at the last moment he inclined his head.
There was the sound of the doors opening and Finduilas entered the hall clutching the arm of her father. They reached her future husband and she swept into a low curtsy.
The gentle smile on Denethor’s face eased Imrahil’s fears somewhat.
As they came to the gates Círdan the Shipwright came forth to greet them. Very tall he was, and his beard was long, and he was grey and old, save that his eyes were keen as stars…
(Lord of the Ring: Return of the King)
(Chapter: The Grey Havens)
Later Círdan surrendered his (ring) to Mithrandir. For Círdan saw further and deeper than any other in Middle-earth, and he welcomed Mithrandir to the Grey Havens, knowing whence he came and whither he would return. "Take this ring, Master," he said, "for your labours will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle heart in a world that grows chill. But as for me, my heart is with the Sea, and I will dwell by the grey shows until the last ship sails, I will await you."
(Lord of the Rings: Appendix B)
Silence fell between them. Círdan did not mind. The song of the seagulls was sweet to his ears and the wind was a breeze flowing inland. Some did not understand his love for the Sea. They found the air humid, the smell of salt difficult to breathe and the weather treacherous when the waves tossed and turned. But this was what he loved from the beginning ever since he set eyes on the mass of water that changed colours according to its mood.
"Your realm is calm and peaceful, Cirdan," Mithrandir said. "You have laboured hard on it."
"And it is great joy to see the fruits of my labour."
Mithrandir had aged since Círdan set eyes on him last. The Maia was capable of looking fair if he so wished but before him he wore the garbs of an old man, who seemed to age as time passed by. An old man he would have been mistaken for if it wasn't for his sharp eyes and the spring in his step. Mithrandir raised his hand, uncovering the Ring of Fire that still lay on the table between them.
"Do you wish to give this to me?" Mithrandir asked. "Think again! Perhaps you might have more need of it than I in the future."
But Círdan shook his head.
"You need no hope on the ships at Sea." He said. "My people and I put our trust on the Valar for our wellbeing."
"And what of Thranduil, new king of Greenwood the Great? Do you not believe that he needs the ring more than I?" Mithrandir said with a brow raised. "This ring with its brethren was meant for Elves and yet here you offer it to Maia."
But Círdan shook his head.
"Of Thranduil I have no worry. That Elf is strong and bold and his people love him dearly. He needs not the Ring of Fire where the hopes of his people are bright and kindled. Keep it! Your travels will take you far and wide and more than once I believe you will need to put fire in the hearts of Men, Dwarves and Elves. Nay, the Ring is suited for your endeavours. Had I believed that Thranduil was more suited, it would have been him to receive the Ring."
-It begs the curiosity as to why Thranduil was not given the ring while the others were bestowed on Elves.
-This is my personal take on it.
-Since Cirdan the Shipwright was considered as someone who saw far into the future, he might have had a lot of faith in Thranduil.
-Mithrandir, on the other hand, was famous for his travelling and bringing counsel at the worst of times.
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Thorongil men called him in Gondor, the Eagle of the Star, for he was swift and keen-eyed, and wore a silver star upon his cloak; but no one knew his true name nor in what land he was born.
He himself overthrew the Captain of the Haven in battle upon the quays, and then he withdrew his fleet with small loss. But when they came back to Pelargir, to men's grief and wonder, he would not return to Minas Tirith, where great honour awaited him. 'He sent a message of farewell to Ecthelion, saying: "Other tasks now call me, lord, and much time and many perils must pass, ere I come again to Gondor, if that be my fate."
(Lord of the Rings: Appendix A)
Imrahil regarded him with deep seated suspicion.
"Just Thorongil?" He asked. The man smiled and nodded.
No father-name, no mother-name; either he was an orphan or he was hiding his true parentage. He was a sellsword. The Steward and his father thought well of him. He didn't. It soon became clear Thorongil was hiding who he was. His speech was well-versed in languages, etiquettes and lore. He did not behave as other sellswords often did, but kept far from unseemly companion. He answered most questions with a cryptic smile, so Imrahil stopped asking.
He had a Númenórean look about him. He was tall, broad-shouldered, with black shaggy hair reaching his shoulders and a beard he kept neat and tidy. His clothes were old, but cleaned and well-patched. Imrahil found that the money he received for his service he gave to orphans and widows and lived on bare necessities. He left quite unexpectedly. The men returned, sharing tales of Thorongil's valour and leadership. Imrahil found his rooms empty of his belongings, what little money left behind given to the orphans.
"A pity he left so suddenly," the Steward said sorrowfully. "He was a good friend and as good as ally as Gondor could get." But Denethor was relieved, although he did not give it voice.
The years passed and the mystery of Thorongil faded from their minds when more pressing matters took their time and energy. Until Imrahil found himself standing face to face a man with the face from the ghost of his past with Minas Tirith burning and at siege.
Imrahil stared at the man who claimed to be king with a mixture of relief and shock. He was relieved to see him alive and well after so many years but in shock to see his true identity. He hadn't changed save for the few grey hairs on his head. His armour was different and his sword was as well but the man was the same. Judging from his smile he recognized him as well.
Before Thorongil could say a word, Imrahil punched him hard before helping him stand upright again.
"Old unfinished business," Imrahil said gruffly before his eldest son could ask. The king straightened with a wry smile.
"I am sorry, my friend, for my abrupt departure," he said. "But certain circumstances called me to return to my home. Now I have returned."
Imrahil looked him from head to toe before giving a grim but welcome smile.
"If you are king, then Gondor will see good times."
"They took Dol Guldur, and Galadriel threw down its walls and laid bare its pits, and the forest was cleansed. In the North, also there had been war and evil. The realm of Thranduil was invaded, and there was long battle under the trees, and great ruin of fire; but in the end Thranduil had the victory."
(Lord of the Rings: Appendix B)
Tents were set up to heal the injured and provide shrouds to bury the dead. The dead were buried far from Dol Guldur, where the soil was soft and the trees were friends. The Elves worked quickly, bringing down what was left of Dol Guldur till it lay in nothing but a pile of disfigured stones.
No one but the Silvan Elves living in the forest of Mirkwood looked in the direction of Dol Guldur with more regret and sorrow. It was stain on their forest, on their memory. Here the imprisoned Elves spent long and dark years of imprisonment, and the Elves living in the safety of Thranduil's Halls felt the wretched helplessness.
No doubt their king felt the same, though none could say for sure. Men often described him like kings of old, terrible yet splendid, with a heart that softened in a cry of help yet hardened when a threat crashed against his forest like a storm at Sea crashed against the shores. He had seen terrible things at war, so little fazed him but he was loyal and many of his people seen him laugh when he was merry.
There was no merriment by the broken city of Dol Guldur, only grief and sorrow as they pulled more and more Elves from the pits Galadriel laid bare. Thranduil ran his eyes over the plain.
"Where is the Lady Galadriel?" Thranduil asked the guard accompanying him.
"Resting, Sire," he answered. "The battle took a heavy toll on her."
"I am sure." Thranduil said. "How many dead?"
"They are still counting, Sire."
Dol Guldur; it was the first capital of Greenwood the Great. Oropher built it as a fortress of safety, but after problems with Lothlórien, Oropher moved away to keep the peace between the two peoples. Sauron took the fortress and claimed it as his own. The greenery on the hill shrivelled away, the ground became dry and cracked. Darkness lay over Dol Guldur and any Elf that looked upon the city looked upon it with a curse. Thranduil felt the same. He went up to the uncovered pits and looked below. Bloody water gathered in small puddles on the broken ground. Chains lay broken and scattered over the stones. He saw whips as well and broken cells to hold prisoners.
"It seems Sauron looked for the secret of Morgoth on the making of orcs." Thranduil said. "Did you find any?"
"Where are they?"
"Sire," the guard was visibly uncomfortable. "Your advisor mentioned it best for not to see them."
"Where?" Thranduil repeated, his words brooking no argument. The guard bowed his head and led him to a nearby tent.
As soon as the flap closed behind him, Thranduil noted with a pang in his heart the stretchers on which breathing, living but mutilated Elves lay. Healers moved about. Some of the Elves were horribly mutilated, their nails torn away, their hair hanging in clumps and a part of their head naked of skin. Many showed ribs and wasted limbs that were nothing but skin on bones. Thranduil reached the one closest to him and tenderly brushed his fingers on his forehead. The Elf was unconscious but his body twitched in response. Some of these may survive with the proper care and love. He got up and moved to the further into the tent, noting with each stretcher he passed, the conditioned worsened steadily.
The Elves furthest from the tent entrance were barely recognizable. They seemed more orc than Elf. One of the healers looked up, recognized him and hurried up to him.
"How are they?" Thranduil said before the healer had the chance to speak.
"Those with the least torture may survive. Many will set sail. Those who choose to stay behind will need care and attention. As for the ones lying here," he looked about. "These are more orcs than Elves."
Thranduil lowered himself beside a nearby stretcher. The freed prisoner that lay before him was covered by a blanket, visible skin dark and bruised, the face was scarred, disfigured, the lip caught in a permanent sneer. His hair was thin and in clumps, the tips of the ears mutilated.
"And what will be their fate?"
"We have prepared a concoction to let them drift to eternal sleep." Thranduil looked up silently.
"It is the only way, my lord. I assure you it is completely painless." The healer nodded at the prisoner. "He was next."
"I will do it."
The healer did not waste his breath to argue and left. Thranduil was firm when he came on a decision and none can move him from it. When the healer returned, he passed the cup in his hands to Thranduil. The king placed his hand behind the half-orc's neck and raised its head lightly and brought the cup closer.
But it knocked away his hand. The cup dropped with a dull thud on the ground, spilling its contents on the soil that eagerly drank the concoction. It sat up, glaring at Thranduil with dark eyes. His guards immediately went for their swords but Thranduil remained calm and gestured at them to stand their ground. He searched the half-orc's eyes. There was no malice, no fury or hostility. Instead it pointed at the dagger hanging from Thranduil's belt. It wanted to die by a blade; warrior's death rather than a coward's. Still, a dagger was no weapon of battle, but Thranduil refused to use his sword to end the life of an Elf, even if it were consumed by an orc's.
He pulled the dagger free from his sheath and looked at the half-orc for confirmation. It didn't move, but lay there, neck stretched to receive the blade, satisfaction and relief in its eyes. Strange, for something so unattractive to be their kin. Thranduil pressed the blade along the neck, his guards moving to hold down the half-orc. The dagger was sharp, and Thranduil would make sure it would not suffer.
"We will meet again," Thranduil murmured to the half-orc. The dagger moved, slicing, deep enough for the blood to gush forth in fierce spurts. The half-orc gave a brief squeal of pain before it lay limp, the life dying from its eyes within a matter of moments.
"Glorfindel was tall and straight; his hair was of shining gold, his face fair and young and fearless and full of joy; his eyes were bright and keen, and his voice was like music; on his brow sat wisdom and in his hand was strength."
"And Elves, sir! Elves here and Elves there! Some like kings, terrible and splendid; and some as merry as children…"
(Lord of the Rings; the Fellowship of the King)
(Chapter: Many Meetings)
Glorfindel glowered at the feline lounging in the middle of his bed.
"Get off," he told it.
But the cat considered him unworthy of her attention. Her legs were tucked beneath her, the ash grey fur puffing out to ward off the cold of newly arrived winter. Fire blazed in the fireplace, giving the room warmth. No doubt one of his students started the fire in his room. It was customary. It was also customary for the cat to go wherever she found warmth, and wherever suited her wants. Glorfindel sighed and shook his head, admitting defeat, and added more wood to the fire.
Estel was the one to name her "Lith" for her fur. Kept more for amusement than for any real purpose, she spent her days like a queen would. She gave birth to three kittens that were old enough to open their eyes. Glorfindel learnt to keep his door and windows closed to prevent their entry. This meant that either the student who started his fire was foolish enough to leave his door open or there was a culprit on the loose. Suddenly he remembered his door was shut tight when he came to his room. He went and checked the windows. Also closed. That meant he had a culprit to find. And he knew just who it was.
He heard murmurs in the corridor and stepped outside. Erestor and Estel both stood in the corridor, holding steaming mugs in their hands. Glorfindel marched up and rapped the thirteen-year-old with his knuckles on the crown of his head. Estel yelped in pain and rubbed his head.
"You! You are the reason why I have a cat in my bedchamber."
Erestor chuckled into his mug and took a sip. Estel did not look the least repentant. He had yet to see the sterner side of Glorfindel. "Your room was the warmest," the boy said. He was grinning. "I thought it be best."
"Where are the kittens?" Glorfindel said.
"With her, I expect," Erestor said before Estel could answer. "They never leave their mother's side, except if the cook forgets to put the milk out of their reach." His old-time friend raised a brow. "And they are probably hiding in nooks and crannies. Have a good time looking for them."
Glorfindel only shook his head. They lingered in the corridor for a while longer, chatting leisurely. Erestor surrendered his mug when he drank half of it and Glorfindel finished the rest. They parted afterwards for the night. When Glorfindel entered the room, it was cosy with warmth and Lith lay outstretched in front of the fire. He took off his boots and placed them beside his fur-trimmed boots by the door…
Except that he didn't own fur-trimmed boots.
With one hand, he scooped into one of the boots and fished out a kitten by the scruff of its neck. He did the same with the other hand and pulled out another kitten. Both of them stared at him with wide, innocent eyes. Leftover fur stuck to the edges of his boots. He raised one of the miscreants close to his face.
"Simple-minded fur-ball," he said.
The kitten licked the tip of his nose with a tiny pink tongue as the third kitten tried to play with his toes.
1. Sam's words of Elves merry as children.
2. Glorfindel's description marking him a mix of a seasoned warrior with the humour of a fresh sergeant.
-Estel described slightly younger mind than his age, owing to Elven blood mixed in his mortal bloodlines.
-I doubt Imladris had an issue of rats. Thus cats are more likely kept for companionship.
"Let me lie here- to keep the Ford until Éomer comes."- Théodred's dying words.
"Remember Théodred at the Fords, and the grave of Háma in Helm's Deep!"
(Lord of the Rings: Two Towers)
"In the War of the Ring, Théodred fell in battle with Saruman at the Crossings of Isen."
(Lord of the Rings: Appendix A)
The sound of swords clanging, horses' hooves shaking the earth echoed around him. Théodred urged his men forward but he was losing the battle. Already the bodies were piling and he did not miss the eagerness of the enemy with which they drew nearer to him. Éomer's doubts were at last proven true. Saruman wished him dead. It will be a severe blow on Rohan if the line of Kings was crippled. After him, he was certain Éomer was next.
He cut down another opponent from atop his horse, making sure none drew near to kill his mount. He could still run if he wished but he'd be damned to leave his men behind like a coward and much less let Saruman gain ground and yet another victory. With grim acceptance, he spurred his horse on. Seeing their leader take the front, the Riders pushed harder.
"Riders of Rohan! Press on with your prince!" Théodred cried out. The Riders answered him and followed.
The first blow took down Théodred's horse in the middle of the chaos. It went down, throwing Théodred forward in his saddle and then falling on his side. His leg was trapped with the foot in the stirrup, between the horse and the ground. His sword had fallen out of his reach. The second blow came when the sword raised high above the head of the orc that would be his killer. Unable to move much, Théodred moved as far left as he could. The blade caught on to the area between his neck and shoulder. There was sharp pain and then heavy fluid gathered behind his ear and drenched him beneath the armour. An artery was hit. The orc raised his sword again but the blow did not come. An arrow pierced the orc, felling him. Horns echoed across the plains and he heard singing of a newly arrived éored. But where he lost one orc, another took its place, this time with a spear. Raising it up, the orc embedded it deep into his chest.
Théodred took in a sharp breath of pain. The orc too was cut down but the spear remained in place. The sky was bright, with not a cloud in sight, the wind forcing some strands of his hair into his eyes. His helmet had fallen back and he felt the grass was uneven and comforting just the same. He felt the urge to sleep. A face broke his vision of the sky but it was a familiar one.
"My prince!" The cry was full of anguish. He felt tears drop on his cheeks.
The man was obviously babbling words of comfort, lies that his wounds were not serious. And then silence fell and he felt Elfhelm's hand smooth back his hair and place his sword in his hand; he would die a proud warrior. Théodred tried to summon the strength to force out his words. His comrade's eyes widened at the mention of Éomer. He was an heir to the kingdom after Théodred's death. But nothing mattered to Théodred.
Sleep claimed him and when he awoke, he was welcomed to the halls of his forefathers as a hero who would not flee the battle for his own preservation.
"… Yet I would not have you remain like a beggar at the door." – Imrahil on Aragorn's decision to put tents on the fields.
"Not a beggar," said Aragorn. "Say a captain of the Rangers, who are unused to cities and houses of stone."
(Lord of the Ring: The Return of the King)
(Chapter: The Houses of Healing)
The silence was deafening.
Aragorn heaved a sigh and rose from his bed. Sleep would not come to him. He was given all the comforts a Man could ask for. The fire blazed merrily. The open window gave him fresh air. The bed was soft, and the silence would have been welcome if any other Man was in his place. But he was no ordinary Man.
Here the wind blowing into his room only beckoned him to the life he once knew, to the life he would give up as a king. He remembered the throbbing heat of the Sun and the silver light of the Moon, to sleep curled in a cloak over a bed of grass or a bed of stones. He doubted he would ever live such a life again. It was a hard life, but even in Imladris, his heart yearned for the Wild.
"Like Túrin, son of Húrin," Erestor once remarked on his restlessness. But Elrond was not pleased.
"Say rather, a son of Dúnedain; Túrin's fate is not one I would wish on any of my sons."
Aragorn was certainly not uncouth when it came to the matters of nobility and royalty. He was taught well, able to disguise himself among the common folk and yet remember the etiquettes to move among the higher ranks. But those who knew him remarked that no matter what he wore, his gaze was uncanny, and he wore his power and lineage like a Man would wear a cloak.
The guard standing outside his rooms stood at alert in his presence, but he waved him away. He would be old and feeble before he needed a guard to follow his steps. A nearby side garden served its purpose; with the sweet fragrance of flowers and the sound of crickets.
"I was not expecting to have company."
"I was not expecting the gardens to be occupied, Master Frodo." Aragorn sat beside the Hobbit. He felt pity for the Hobbit. The journey had taken a toll on him. The burden of the Ring was lifted but the Hobbit seemed more distant. Frodo was always cautious, soft-spoken, with bravery that was not seen at the surface, like a young lord who was given too much responsibility before his time.
"It is a peaceful place."
"Aye, it is."
They sat in quiet companionship. Then Frodo's hand reached up.
"The wound will never heal." Aragorn said. Frodo's hand dropped from the place Shelob poisoned him.
"I know, the Lords Elrohir and Elladan told me." The fountain before them was not working. The water pooled in the lowermost basin, moonlight reflecting on the surface like white gems in an Elven King's treasury. "How am I to address you? The name 'Strider' does not seem to leave my tongue."
"You may address me however you wish. It was you, not I, who walked into Mount Doom and destroyed the Ring."
"I did not do it. Gollum was the one."
"I know. But the purpose was the same."
"Gandalf was right, you know. Gollum had some part to play after all; for good or evil. In the end, he was Smeagol rather than Gollum."
"What has kept you awake?"
"I cannot believe it is done." Frodo's hand went over to the stump of the finger that bore the One Ring. It was still bandaged. "The heat was too great, and the air was hard to breathe in Mount Doom. It is still vivid in my waking as well as in my dreams."
Aragorn clasped the four-fingered hand in both of his own.
"You could have sat in silence during the Council of Elrond. Had you done so, you would not be here."
"And the Ring might not be destroyed."
"There were bare chances even then."
"I do not regret any of it. And what of you? What keeps you from dreams?"
"My kingdom it seems; and my yearning to join the Wild."
"You will have Men you can trust. Sam speaks highly of the Steward. He says he reminds him of Gandalf, only younger."
"The Men of Minas Tirith under his command say he reminded them of kings of old."
"Is that not a good thing?"
"I hope. And if it were not, then Gondor will learn to live on, even if I bring ruin to it."
"Doubt in oneself would bring nothing but ruin, Strider."
"And how did you come by such wisdom?"
"I would not have reached Mount Doom without it."
"You have become wise from your experience." Aragorn touched the Hobbit's shoulder.
"I think all of us are, even Pippin. If an Elf and a Dwarf can form an unbreakable friendship then I suppose anything is possible."
Aragorn's laugh echoed in the air. Frodo was smiling as well.
"I should go. Sam would look into my room and find me gone. He would worry."
"He is a loyal friend." Frodo rose from the bench.
"He kept me on my feet all the way to Mount Doom. I would not worry, Aragorn." Frodo said. "You will be a great king. I am sure."
"And what of my love for the Wild?"
Frodo paused in thought.
"I expect… I suppose one always cherishes the things that have turned to nothing but memories. I cherish my childhood, but I suppose I would be sorry if I missed the chance to do something good for all of Middle-Earth, even if I can't go back to the way my life was." With that Frodo left.
When Aragorn returned to his rooms, sleep came easily.
"This is the Hall of Fire" said the wizard. "Here you will hear many songs and tales- if you can keep awake."
(Lord of the Rings; the Fellowship of the Ring)
(Chapter: Many Meetings)
"I beg of you," said Bilbo stammering and standing on one foot, "to accept this gift!' and he brought out a necklace of silver and pearls that Dain had given him at their parting.
"In what way have I earned such a gift, O hobbit?" said the king.
"Well, er, I thought, don't you know," said Bilbo, rather confused, "that, er, some little return should be made for your, er, hospitality. I mean even a burglar has his feelings. I have drunk much of your wine and eaten much of your bread."
Third Age, 3019,
The Hall of Fire was wondrously warm. It was filled more than it was ever before. The lighter robes of the inhabitants of Imladris mixed among the darker colours of Elves who travelled from Eryn Lasgalen with their King. Thranduil and Elrond sat together on a high platform, while the minstrels played soft music by the crackling fire. Finally the music ceased and Bilbo stepped forward.
Bilbo's song was unlike any other; it was not Elvish, but went more along the lines of joyful tunes sung in the Green Dragon on wintery nights. It was a jaunty tune, of a young Hobbit forced to leave the comforts of his home due to a company of Dwarves and the longing of his own heart. Bilbo stepped and gestured as he sang as much as his old age allowed, of how the Hobbit went from one trouble to the other, following it with the woe of losing his perfect buttons at the Goblin-door, of the terror of wolves and the barrels swinging in the river. It was a story King Thranduil knew well.
Bilbo never witnessed the horror on the Elves' faces as he witnessed then. At first, they struggled to keep their composure but towards the end, laughter rose up even among King Thranduil's company. When Bilbo stepped away, he looked over to where the mentioned King sat. Curiously, Thranduil's face was hidden behind his hand. His shoulders shook. Beside him, Lord Elrond sat with a merry smile on his face. Bilbo went up to them.
"Well, Master Burglar, for all the years that passed by you, your memory is still as sharp as a knife." Thranduil said. He removed his hand and Bilbo found a smile in place of a frown he was expecting. The King turned to Elrond. "I hope you were not the one to encourage him, my friend. If so, the consequences will be dire."
At times, Bilbo found King Thranduil frightening. He was a like a king in tales of old; proud, fierce, like a lion baring its teeth. But then Thranduil would smile, and Bilbo would see the kindness and generosity lingering just beneath the surface, and only then would one notice the cubs the lion was protecting.
"I told if he had the audacity to sing about the shortcomings of the Elven King of Greenwood in his presence, it will be his tongue and neck at stake and not mine," Elrond said. But his voice was merry, and Bilbo knew there was no harm. "But then Master Bilbo sung about my father in my presence, and I will say he indeed has courage for a being so small."
"You were not offended then, Master Elrond, and forgive my saying so. Had I known you felt differently, I would not have put your father's tale to song." Bilbo said, slightly defensive. But Elrond was not surprised.
"I believe I have been put to my place." Elrond remarked. Thranduil gave a short laugh and reached for his goblet.
"You have been indeed, my friend. Have a care! This burglar managed to evade my watch and roamed my halls. I believe you are severely outmatched."
Bilbo, at first, began to feel a bit offended, but then he noticed the jests were not at his expense. Their words for him were full of respect, but they were entirely meant for one another.
"I need not fear he would resort to burglary again! After all, those days are past him. Are they not, Master Bilbo?"
Bilbo flushed up to his whitening hair.
"They are long past and I hope the nasty business does not return, for I am too weary to take any adventure. Although I hope," Bilbo turned to King Thranduil, rose and gave an awkward little bow. "I did not offend you, Elven King. The song was meant to only remember the past."
"Do not worry, Master Hobbit. I am not offended. Indeed, it was splendid to hear, though I cannot believe one as good in burglary as you could have made so many slips!"
"Most were highly exaggerated, King," Bilbo sat comfortably on the seat provided for him. "It was meant to be comical."
"Ah, then you should have lengthened the part of taking your helpings in my dinner, Master Hobbit." The King leaned back in his chair, the informal position only complimenting his royal form. "For the chase of finding who was responsible for eating for the supper I sung for was indeed a comedy none of my people will forget!"
Remembering his hunger and the King's tempting (and unwatched) dinner, Bilbo flushed but the King laughed once more.
"Then she lifted from her lap a great stone of a clear green, set in a silver brooch that was wrought in the likeness of an eagle with outspread wings; and as she held it up the gem flashed like the sun shining through the leaves of spring."
(Fellowship of the Ring: Farewell to Lórien)
"For it is said that those who looked through this stone saw things that were withered or burned healed again or as they were in the grace of their youth, and that the hands of one who held it brought to all that they touched healing from hurt."
(Unfinished Tales: History of Galadriel and Celeborn)
She turned the Elessar between her fingers, marvelling the way it caught the sunlight. She had unpinned the brooch from Aragorn's cloak, where he wore it always, even to battle. The years left the silver wings unstained, and the gem itself was bright when it caught the flashing light. It was what gave Aragorn his name he took as a king. In Westron, the men simply called it 'Elfstone'.
She raised her head. Aragorn sat behind his desk across the room, with papers littered across the surface. He was too deep in thought to pay her attention. His black hair was now snow white. His face was wrinkled in both sorrow and joy. His beard was white and slightly longer than usual. The crown rested upon his head. He would not leave her side for many years to come. In that, she was confident. But the years were passing by, and time was now short. She treasured each day, made memories by the hour.
She remembered the legends surrounding the Elfstones. They were green stones with the light of the sun trapped within it. The Noldor loved them dearly. They granted the power of healing to their bearers. It was also said that the one who looked through an Elfstone saw withered things young and whole.
She held up the brooch and looked through. Her beloved was now surrounded by green-golden light, but his hair and beard was dark and his skin smooth. He was just the way she first saw him, when she heard his voice singing the song of Tinúviel and he called for her by that name. He was young and handsome; just like she remembered him. But her love was not based on his looks and it did not diminish over the years.
Sensing his wife's eyes upon him, Aragorn looked up. But Arwen was looking outside the window with tears in her eyes and a soft smile on her face. The Elfstone lay on her lap.
"… Over all the Lady Éowyn wore a great blue mantle of the colour of deep summer-night, and it was set with the silver stars about hem and throat."
"The mantle was wrought for his mother, Finduilas of Amroth, who died untimely, and was to him but a memory of loveliness in far days and of his first grief…"
(Return of the King: The Steward and the King)
Faramir's deeds called for a celebration.
His Rangers caught the secret plans of the enemy, and his swift response not only brought victory to Gondor but annihilated the battalion that dared to step inside the borders. The men returned to Minas Tirith singing his praises and recounting the tale to all those who listened.
Denethor listened quietly, as was his wont, but there was no doubt the Steward was proud of his son's feat. A feast was held in his honour and when it broke, he let his son go to celebrate with his men.
In the evening, before Faramir left with his comrades for merrymaking, Denethor called his son to his chambers. When Faramir entered, he found a small chest waiting for him on a table beside Denethor's chair. His father opened it, swept away the wrappings and pulled from it a mantle as dark as night and with embroidery resembling the stars. Upon a woman, it would look as if the heavens themselves draped around her.
"It belonged to your mother," Denethor said. The mantle flowed and fell on the folds upon the ground as he held it up for Faramir to see. "Take this as my gift to you. You have your name and honour, and your men to do your bidding. May a time come that you find a woman to love as I loved your mother." Faramir looked at his father and caught a rare glimpse of emotion on his father's face; sorrow and grief. "And may she never leave your side as early as your mother left mine."
Faramir reached out and touched the mantle reverently. His fingers were rough from deeds on the battlefield, but the mantle was as soft as he remembered from his childhood. The silver was untarnished, and he caught the faint scent of his mother's perfume still clinging to the mantle. He smiled.
"You have given me a rich gift, father."
"And one I know you will treasure. Keep it safe until you find the lady worthy for it."
Faramir returned the mantle to its chest and wrappings. He set it in his room among his most prized items. There was no lady in his life. But if there was, then he would bestow this as a gift upon her.
He examined himself carefully in the looking-glass. The knife-wound was healed, the thin, white scar running down from the middle of his cheek down to his jawline. It gave his face character, though it no longer held the handsome features of an innocent-looking noble. The scar made him look fiercer, manlier.
"Pity I cannot grow a beard to hide this scar." Amrothos said before looking over his shoulder where Faramir, his kin, sat. The Steward's second son looked at him amused.
"Scars will make your popular." Faramir said.
"Hm, and warn the parents to keep their daughters at a distance."
"You sound upset."
"I did not survive each battle carefully guarding my face from marring to get a cut in a tavern brawl."
"You sound vain."
Faramir knew if anything, Amrothos was vain about his refined looks, but lethal when it came to strategy. The Prince was not above using dirty tactics in battle.
"I feel vain." Amrothos gestured at Faramir's beard. "How is it that you are able to grow a beard when your mother was our paternal aunt?"
"You forget my father was not from the Princes of Dol Amroth and therefore with no blood relation to Elves."
"Of all things to inherit from Elves, we inherit the lack of beards from them."
"Well, the Elves can grow beards in very advanced stage of life."
"Your reasoning does nothing to console me."
There was a knock on the door, which was slightly ajar. The door swept open and Legolas entered, with a customary smile upon his face.
"There you are. Your absences were noted in the hall. Prince Imrahil is currently playing a game of chess against Éomer. Your spectatorship is needed."
Catching Amrothos pass a forlorn glance at the mirror, Legolas asked, "Is something amiss?"
"Nay," Amrothos said. "I am merely cursing the shortcomings of Elves."
Catching Legolas' confused look, Faramir tapped at his beard behind Amrothos' back. Comprehension dawned and Legolas laughed merrily.
"I apologize for the traits of my kin. It is simply how we are made. Come! The Hobbits insist upon a song in the all company of Dwarf, Men and Elves… and those descended from the last two."
He was the one who kept the two brothers together whenever it was possible. In fact he insisted upon it. He told them briefly that brothers must stand together and let nothing come in between them.
In personality, both sons were so different that Denethor often feared they would form a rift between themselves once they grew older. Faramir was quiet, cautious and moved closer to pity. He looked for solutions that ended with friendship. Boromir was straightforward, sometimes reckless, every inch of him a leader on the battlefield but he lacked Faramir's way with words and actions.
Quarrels were the norm when the two were children. As much as the saying went the brothers always fought, Denethor refused to let them continue their squabbles. He nipped the custom in the bud.
"Neither of you will retire to bed until you put your differences aside." He used to command them. "You are the future of this land, and I will not have you risk it over a petty argument."
It was when they had grown that they understood the depth of their father's wisdom. Conceited nobles who were always plotting to gain more power tried to drive a wedge between the two brothers. But Denethor's stern discipline only brought them closer after each experience. And so, the two brothers enjoyed playful banter whenever they ate with their father. Denethor enjoyed their exchanges, even though he did not side with either of them. At one occasion, after the two had returned from a mission that involved their participation, Boromir had taken to teasing his sibling mercilessly
"He spends much of his time in books!" Boromir exclaimed to his father. "Every time we camped, every time we stopped by a city, I would find him usually in whatever miserable room they called a library. At one time, I was afraid he would bring a book rather than his sword to battle!"
"A learned man who is a soldier as well is a mighty man, Boromir," Denethor advise in his calm, eloquent way. "You may learn something from your younger brother yet."
But Faramir was not one to be so quickly outwitted. With a raised brow and a small knowing smile he inherited from Denethor, the younger brother said. "Kindly observe, father, the vain attempt of attacking me in a way to mask the identity of his lady love."
Denethor laughed heartedly at that.
"But Glorfindel rode up then on his white horse, and in the midst of his laughter the Witch-king turned to flight and passed into the shadows."
"Eärnur now rode back, but Glorfindel, looking into the gathering dark, said: "Do not pursue him! He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall."
(Lord of the Rings: Appendix A)
"It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. "But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund's daughter."
(Return of the King: Pelennor Fields)
She had met with the lords of Rivendell when they first arrived in Minas Tirith but she was formally introduced to them by King Elessar the day after the wedding, in the evening, when the Elves claimed for a more peaceful and relaxed setting than a grand feast.
As soon as Aragorn introduced her to Lord Elrond and his most trusted companions, Lord Glorfindel and Lord Erestor, all eyes were upon her, Elves, Men, Hobbits and Dwarves alike. The scrutiny was unnerving. For a brief moment, Éowyn's eyes briefly faltered and she focused more on the embroidery on Lord Elrond's robes than anything else. Finally, her pride set in and overpowered her senses and she rose to her full height and raised her chin proudly.
The first Elf to meet her gaze was Lord Glorfindel himself. If it were not for the ethereal quality in his being, Éowyn would have considered him a fresh lively youth among the Riders of Rohirrim. But his eyes were tinged with memories acquired through the Ages, followed by the soothing smile on his face that instantly brought her own smile to surface. But what mattered most was the emotion in his eyes; respect. He looked upon her with respect.
"So this is the slayer of the Witch-king," The Elf Lord said. His voice was deep, melodious and pleasant to hear. "Your praise has done her injustice, Estel. The lady seems more strong and noble than you described."
Glorfindel's words were not meant to belittle the King, who only laughed and apologized for his shortcomings. Glorfindel did not remove his gaze on her. She found it was easy to meet his eyes; they were soft and welcoming.
"Come, my lady. I have heard that your deeds were written in songs but I would like to hear the tale from your own tongue."
She tried to decline as politely but the Elves managed to persuade her until finally she consented. She was no storyteller; she stumbled over some words, gave thought to many others. But the Elves listened patiently and in rapt attention. They did not interrupt her, nor did they seem to lose their interest. It was only when she stopped speaking that she became aware of the silence in the hall aside from her voice.
Suddenly realizing she sat among Elves who not only witnessed battles throughout the Ages, but were likely to be older than her own ancestry and immortalized in song, Éowyn struggled to keep her composure. What was she compared to these Elves? What were her deeds, compared to their deeds? Surely they were more renowned than her.
But at length, Glorfindel stirred and said, "Hardy indeed is the people of Rohan. If this is one lady from their people, then I am sure they are a mighty people." His words were meant for everyone but the last words were for Éowyn herself. "You have defeated a mighty foe, my lady. And for that you have our everlasting respect. Your name will be mentioned in many of our songs and lore."
"I was not aware that my battle with the Witch-King would create such a stir. I merely challenged him to defend my kinsman."
Glorfindel smiled broadly at that.
"My lady, the Witch-King was a foe that we Elves had challenged long ago. None of us succeeded in defeating him. When he fled, it was I who stopped my comrades and proclaimed that he would not die by the hand of any man. And here you stand, my lady. You did what no Elf or Man could do."
When Éowyn retired for the night, Glorfindel's words still echoed in her mind.
'You did what no Elf or Man could do.'
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