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Summary: One Yule Aragorn wishes he were home. First place in the Het category for the ALEC challenge ‘I’m Missing You’.
Third Age 3010:
Aragorn sighed, staring morosely across the snow-shrouded lands that had once been the Kingdom of Cardolan as he huddled by a small fire amidst the ruins on Amon Sûl. The night was frigid, colder than it normally would be this early in the winter. An unexpected blizzard had raged across Eriador for nearly a week, forcing Aragorn to halt his journey at the ancient fortress on Weathertop, and thank the Valar he’d been close enough to reach such dubious shelter before the worst of the storm had hit. The blizzard had finally petered out earlier that afternoon. He had so wanted to reach Imladris before this. He had so wanted to surprise his family, his Yule gift to them, though Elves did not celebrate Yule unless some of the Dúnedain were visiting.
And most of all, he had so wanted to see Arwen again.
News had reached him that Elrond had summoned his daughter from Lothlórien, for the lands east of the Misty Mountains were becoming too dangerous. He himself had traveled through the Vales of Anduin with Gandalf only this past summer, searching for clues of the creature Gollum and knew well how dangerous the lands had become. He’d left Gandalf on the borders of Mirkwood to return briefly to Eriador, crossing over the Redhorn Pass into Eregion where he met up with one of the Ranger patrols, for as the Chieftain of the Dúnedain he had responsibilities to his own people and could not be away for any length of time. He would be rejoining Gandalf in the search once spring came, for they had agreed to meet at Radagast’s home in Rhosgobel on the elven New Year’s Day.
He sighed once more and threw another few sticks on the fire. The flames leapt up, casting an orange glow on the snow surrounding his camp. Looking up, he saw the stars glittering brightly, small diamonds in the velvet night. Yes, there was Menelmagor rising out of the east and Gwilwileth to his left. If he bothered to turn around he knew he would see the Cerch Belain spanning the northern skies.
He couldn’t be bothered.
Damn! But he’d been so sure he’d make it to Imladris on time. If the blizzard had just held off at least until he had reached the Bridge of Mitheithel then he would have been close enough. He’d left the borders of the Shire in plenty of time, leaving Halbarad in charge. His cousin had tried to convince him to go to Fornost instead, for the Dúnedain traditionally gathered there to celebrate Yule, but Aragorn had desired to see his elven family again and nothing Halbarad said could persuade him from his course. Now he was wishing he’d listened to his cousin. He would be safe and warm in Fornost this night, enjoying the festivities instead of huddling over a chancy fire with only a scrawny rabbit for dinner. Aragorn glanced over to where his horse stood stolidly munching on some oats.
"Well, Roheryn," he said softly, "and a Happy Yule to you, too."
The horse continued eating, though his ears flicked back and forth at the sound of his master’s voice and Aragorn smiled. "That’s all right, my friend," he said a little wistfully. "I wish we were in Imladris, too, or even in Fornost. Valar! Even holed up in the Prancing Pony would be preferable to being here."
Well, there was no help for it. Tomorrow he would work his way down to the road. The snow lay deep and he knew he would have trouble getting through, but he had no choice. His supplies were low and he needed to hunt. He doubted that Roheryn would be able to plow through the drifts so they would have to wait another day or three for some of the snow to melt. He snarled an oath, one that Lord Glorfindel was wont to use when he was particularly upset, and huddled further into his cloak, wrapping a blanket around his knees, throwing more wood on the fire. At least he’d been able to find a cache of dried wood left by one of the Ranger patrols. It had saved his life.
Despondent and feeling miserable, wishing that on this night of all nights he were in Imladris with Arwen, he fell into an uneasy doze, the warmth of the fire lulling him....
He was not sure how he had reached Imladris for there was no sign of his horse, and that troubled him for a moment, but then he simply accepted the fact that he was standing before the doors of the Last Homely House, the house of his childhood. Snow lay softly on the ground and clothed the rowan trees on either side of the steps leading to the front doors. The night sky was clear and full of stars. The doors opened of themselves even as he stepped towards them and he entered into a dark hallway lit only by two fat candles on tall candlesticks flanking the main staircase leading up to the bedrooms. Somewhere he could hear the strains of ethereal music wafting through the air and he smiled as he walked down the hall towards an ornately carved door, opening it to reveal the Hall of Fire.
He stood there in amazement, for he had never seen it so brightly lit. Everywhere were candles and there was greenery decorated with holly berries and red ribbons in long swags hanging from the rafters and around the door, filling the air with the fresh scent of balsam. Suspended from the rafters were metallic cut-outs of stars painted silver so that they glittered in the light of the candles.
And the room was filled with Elves in festive finery. There were his adar and his brothers dressed in Imladris blue and silver with wreaths of holly on their heads standing near the fire. Glorfindel was nearby laughing with Erestor. The Balrog-slayer was dressed in white velvet and furs while Erestor was in midnight blue. Aragorn suddenly felt uncomfortable, for he was dressed in riding leathers and knew that he stank of horse and sweat. He was about to slip away, perhaps retire to his rooms and change when Arwen appeared before him, smiling. She was dressed in deep burgundy, her dark hair caught in a pearl-studded net, the Evenstar lying between her breasts, glittering brightly in the candlelight. She had never looked so beautiful.
"Welcome home, beloved," she said, embracing him and kissing him fully on the mouth.
He was so surprised at such a greeting that he involuntarily wrapped his arms around her and kissed her back. He only let go when he realized that everyone else in the room was applauding. He felt himself blushing furiously.
She put a finger to his lips and smiled that warm smile that was meant only for him and, taking his hand, led him further into the room. Elves parted for them, some calling out softly in greeting, others simply smiling as they passed. Arwen brought him before Elrond, his brothers flanking the Lord of Imladris. Glorfindel and Erestor stood just behind them.
"Welcome, my son," Elrond said warmly, giving him a hug. "We’ve been expecting you."
"My lord...." Aragorn began.
"Estel, is that any way to greet your family?" Glorfindel exclaimed in amusement and the twins snickered.
Aragorn felt bemused. "Is... is this a dream?" he asked Elrond when the Elf-lord let him go.
His adar smiled benignly and gave him another hug. "If it is, Estel, it is a good dream, is it not?"
"But... but how did I get here?" Aragorn enquired. "I... I wanted it to be a surprise, but... how did you know I was coming?"
"I knew," was all Elrond said and then released him from his embrace. "Why don’t you greet your brothers?"
Aragorn just stood there, not sure how to react. He stared at his brothers for a moment and then Elladan took the initiative and embraced him. "Happy Yule, Little Brother," he whispered in his ear. "It’s good to see you home again."
Elrohir then gave him a hug as well. "You’re looking well, Estel, but you should have stopped to bathe first." The Twins laughed at the blush on Aragorn’s face.
"Stop it, you two," Arwen said sharply as she claimed Aragorn’s arm. "Pay no heed to them, my love."
"Arwen, how can I be here?" Aragorn asked in confusion. "This must be a dream and yet it doesn’t feel like a dream. It feels more real than any dream I’ve ever had."
"Does it matter?" Glorfindel interjected before Arwen could speak. "Will you not accept it as a gift, a Yule gift?"
"From whom?" Aragorn demanded.
Glorfindel shrugged. "Perhaps from the Valar, perhaps from your own desires... and ours that you be here on this special night."
"But am I really here in Imladris, or am I still huddled beside a fire on Amon Sûl?"
"Perhaps both," Elrond said with a smile, gently laying a hand on Aragorn’s shoulder.
"Come, Estel," Arwen said, pulling on his arm. "Dance with me."
The Twins smirked and Elrond nodded encouragingly as Aragorn allowed Arwen to lead him to an area which had been set aside for dancing. There were other couples already there as the first measure of a pavane began. At first, Aragorn felt awkward, for he’d never felt comfortable dancing among such graceful beings, feeling earthbound and clumsy in comparison, but as the dance continued, he felt himself relaxing and reveling in the knowledge that he was dancing with Arwen, with the love of his life. The pavane ended but another dance, this one more lively, began and he allowed himself to enter into it, joyously twirling Arwen in his arms.
He was not sure when they stopped dancing. It seemed as if they’d been dancing all night but finally, exhausted from their romp, they retreated to a far corner of the room. Someone came along with a tray and handed them crystal goblets of mulled wine and only then did Aragorn realize how thirsty he was. When he had taken a few sips he took a moment to glance around. Elves were gathered in small groups, chatting amiably and laughing. Someone began singing a hymn to Elbereth, the voice high and ethereal, sending shivers down Aragorn’s spine, for the sound of Elves singing never failed to move him no matter how often he heard it.
"Elves don’t celebrate Yule," he said softly, more to himself than to Arwen.
"But they do when Mortals reside here," she reminded him just as softly.
At her words he suddenly realized that someone who should have been there was not. "Where’s Bilbo?" he asked. "I cannot imagine him missing this."
Arwen laughed. "Oh, he’s here somewhere," she answered. "I imagine he’s in a corner somewhere furiously writing his next song surrounded by enough food and drink to feed half the Shire."
Aragorn laughed with her. "You’re probably right," he said, but then his smile faltered. "I shouldn’t be here."
"Why do you say that?" Arwen asked, her eyes warm with sympathy.
He shook his head. "I don’t know," he replied, "I just know I shouldn’t... couldn’t possibly be here."
"And yet you are," Arwen said.
He gazed upon her, and fell in love with her all over again. "Oh, Arwen, how I missed you," he said fervently.
"And I missed you, my beloved Estel," she said, brushing a hand through his unruly locks.
"I wanted it to be a surprise... my coming here, I mean."
She nodded but remained silent.
"There was a blizzard," he continued but Arwen put a finger to his lips, stilling his voice.
"It’s all right," she whispered. "You’re here now and that is all that matters." Then she reached up and their lips met and for a time that was outside time he knew nothing but the taste of her lips and the scent of her hair and the feel of her body pressed against his.
Only when he heard someone clearing his throat did Aragorn come to himself, opening his eyes to see Lord Elrond standing there with an amused expression on his face. Aragorn pulled himself hastily away from Arwen, blushing furiously and stammering an apology but Elrond’s smile simply became wider.
"It’s time for you to leave, Estel," he said.
"Leave?" Aragorn stared at his adar in confusion. "But...."
"It’s nearly dawn, my son," Elrond said firmly. "Our time grows short and you must return to the waking world."
"Then this is just a dream," Aragorn said, feeling both sad and cheated. "Then why...?"
"Perhaps Lord Irmo decided to grant us this time together, knowing how much you wished it," Elrond replied with an elegant shrug. "Perhaps this is his Yule gift to us all. Now, make your farewells."
Aragorn shook his head. "I’ll see you all soon for real once I can reach the road and...."
"No, Estel," Elrond said, giving his youngest son a sad smile. "Do not come to Imladris at this time. It is important that you return to Fornost."
"But I wanted to winter over with you," Aragorn protested, cringing mentally at the childish whine in his voice.
"It is important that you spend this time with your own people, Estel," Elrond said. "Come to Imladris once the snows are melting."
"Yes, Ada," Aragorn replied with a sigh.
By now, Elladan, Elrohir, Glorfindel and Erestor had joined them and Aragorn took a few brief moments to say good-bye to them. His brothers teased him as they always did and Erestor gave him reams of advice as he always did. Some things never changed and he was grateful for that.
"It was good to see you again, Estel," Glorfindel said after he had given the Man a hug. "We look forward to seeing you for real in a couple of months." He gave him a wink and a broad smile and Aragorn couldn’t help but smile back, giving the golden-haired Elf-lord a nod.
Then he embraced Elrond and for a long moment the two held one another before Elrond released him. Before Aragorn could say anything he felt Arwen’s touch on his arm and he turned to see her holding a holly sprig which she slipped between the ties of his leather vest where it would not fall out. She smiled at him and gave him a light kiss.
"Tye-melin," she whispered and then it seemed to him as if she and everyone else was receding from him, or perhaps he was the one moving.
"Arwen Vanimelda, namárië," he cried, holding out his hand to touch her but it was too late and he seemed to be falling into darkness. His last vision of Arwen was seeing her stretching out her hand towards him as she bid him farewell.
He felt someone shaking him and he opened his eyes, blinking in the light of the newly risen sun. It took him a moment to realize where he was and who was shaking him.
His cousin grinned down at him as he struggled to rise, only then noticing that Amon Sûl was crowded with Rangers and their horses.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, still feeling befuddled. The dream, if dream it was, still held him enthralled and he was having trouble focusing on the present.
"Making sure you were alive," Halbarad answered and however light his tone was, Aragorn could see the actual relief in his cousin’s eyes. "As soon as the blizzard swept past us we set out to find you. I suspected that you would be caught in it before you ever reached Imladris."
Aragorn nodded. "Well it was that I was so near to Amon Sûl when it struck, else I fear Roheryn and I would have been lost, our bodies not found until spring."
Halbarad nodded as he helped Aragorn to stand. The motion caused something to drop from his vest.
"What’s this?" Halbarad asked, stooping to pick the object up. "A holly sprig?" He gave his cousin a wondering look. "There isn’t any holly growing anywhere near Amon Sûl."
Aragorn reached out in awe for the sprig of dark green leaves and bright red berries. "She... she gave it to me... in my dream," he whispered.
"Who gave it to you?" Halbarad asked, clearly puzzled by his cousin’s expression.
"Arwen," he answered simply. "In my dream, I was in Imladris and...." but the implications of what he was saying stopped him and he gave Halbarad a shake of his head. "I don’t understand," he finally said.
"Neither do I," Halbarad replied, giving him a sympathetic look. "If you mean to continue on to Imladris...."
"No. Adar said I was to return to Fornost and remain there until spring," Aragorn said and then blushed at the disbelieving looks Halbarad and the other Rangers who were listening to their conversation gave him. "Well, that’s what he told me... in my dream," he added lamely, not looking at anyone.
For a moment there was no sound save the jingling of harnesses and the stamping of hooves, and then, Halbarad nodded. "It will be good to have you with us over the winter, my lord," he said formally.
Aragorn nodded, his expression wistful as he gazed down at the holly sprig. "At least we had one night," he whispered to himself, then gathered his wits and looked about him, his expression clearing as he became once more the Chieftain of the Dúnedain. "As long as you are all here, why don’t we do some hunting and have our own Yule feast before we return to Fornost?"
There were cheers among the Rangers and Aragorn left Halbarad in charge of details while he volunteered to build up the fire and get everything ready. As the others bustled about, he stood quietly to one side staring at the holly sprig in his hand.
"Tye-melin, Arwen Vanimelda," he whispered and in his mind he thought he heard Arwen echoing his words. He slipped the sprig into one of the pouches in his saddlebag and then turned his attention to the here and now, enjoying the company of his men.
Spring would come soon enough and then... oh yes! and then....
Words are Sindarin unless otherwise noted.
Milyëanyel: (Quenya) ‘I’m Missing You’, literally, ‘I am longing for you’.
Menelmagor: Sindarin form of Menelmacar: Orion.
Gwilwileth: Sindarin form of Wilwarin: Cassiopeia.
Cerch Belain: Sindarin form of Valacirca: ‘Sickle of the Valar’, Ursa Major.
Tye-melin: (Quenya) ‘I love thee’.
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