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The Heir Apparent  by Mirkwoodmaiden

Chapter 6 – A Seed is Sown

Summer 2930 TA

Ivorwen looked at her daughter. Marriage agrees with her, she thought. Gilraen looked happy and contented as she sat at her loom in Arador’s hall in Fornost. Ivorwen had just arrived the day before on one of her frequent visits to the Chieftain’s settlement. It did Ivorwen’s heart good to see her child happy. She knew it would not last but it gave her comfort to see that her decision to not tell Gilraen of her vision had been an acceptable one, even if it was morally ambiguous. Her daughter would have these years unburdened by the knowledge of the events to come to look back on in later days. Gilraen sat at her loom, the shuttle stilled for a moment as she changed the colour of warp thread. “Does Arathorn know yet?” her mother asked.

Gilraen looked at her mother, “No, not yet. I’ve only just missed my last courses and it has been two weeks since Arathorn and Erithain and their patrol departed for their trip to Imladris. They are due back soon I shall tell him then.”


Erithain sat by the campfire, sore muscles protesting the latest abuse. He had been traveling with the Rangers for three months now, having wrung from his father the permission for this six month-stint with Arathorn’s patrol. They had seen much activity and Erithain had slain more Orcs in three months than he had in a year as Watch Commander of Dirhael’s tribe. He would of course be returning to his people, but he had argued with his father that riding with the Rangers could only benefit the home watch as he would return a more experienced warrior.

The bruised ribs he received the day before when they fell upon the band of Orcs, caused him to wince as he reached down for the mug of ale at his side. “Ribs still paining you, boy? Ah, they make them soft up in the north-country these days, do they not, my lord.”

Erithain looked up and saw Erkenthal, Arathorn’s second in command, looking down at him with a good-natured smirk on his face, “Well,” he replied, a mischievous glint in his blue eyes, “At least I got in a good few kills and don’t swing my blade like a girl.”

Erkenthal barked a short laugh, and then clapped the young man on the back as he sat down, “Ever the insolent tongue! My lord, you should have thrashed him when you had the chance!”

Arathorn looked at his two lieutenants and ruefully chuckled as he sat himself down on the other side of Erithain, “Missed opportunities, they will be the bane of me!” He swallowed a mouthful of ale. “But what I can do? He takes after his wench of a sister!” Erithain saw Arathorn’s eyes light up at the thought of Gilraen.

They were on route back to Fornost after a council with Elrond when they came upon the Orc band. Luckily, Elladan and Elrohir decided to accompany the small company back to Arador’s settlement ever hopeful of a little Orc-slaying. They were not disappointed.

“Like sister, like brother we Elves always say!” said Elladan merrily, coming up from behind to join the group sitting near to the cooking fire.

Elrohir followed him carrying the newly obtained firewood to intensify the heat under the cooking pot. Laying down the pieces of wood, Elrohir said in as grumbling a voice as Erithain had ever heard him use, “What I would like to know is how did I get stuck with the cooking two nights in a row! I seem to remember that it was your turn tonight, Ell’.” He looked suspiciously at his brother.

Elladan deflected the accusatory look, “Well, Little brother, I am merely trying to protect the company’s health. You are always saying that my field cooking could be used as an offensive weapon. Besides you cook so well.” he said, mirth bubbling just below the surface at his brother's annoyance. Deftly avoiding the piece of wood that was chucked in his direction by his younger brother, Elladan clapped Erithain on the back and said flippantly, “So how is our youngest Ranger today?”

Erithain looked up at the Imladris Elf and behind the star-lit blue eyes he could see the deep concern that was masked by Elladan’s lightness of tone. In the battle the day before Erithain had been unseated from his horse and had fallen awkwardly winding him and causing the bruised ribs. When he shook his head to clear it he saw an Orc ready, to deliver the killing blow when an Elven arrow impaled the foul creature and quick as a flash a knife slashed across its throat finishing it off. Standing above Erithain was Elladan covered in dirt and blood and offering him a hand up. “Doing well, thanks to you.”

Elladan smiled and maintained his deceptively flippant tones, “Pure self-preservation instinct, you understand. Your sister would kill me if anything happened to you.”

Laughing, Arathorn said, “Excuse me, but Gilraen would first seek my death and then yours, if a hair on this head should come to harm.” Arathorn affectionately ruffled his young brother-in-law’s dark hair to cover the fear that he knew resided in his eyes over what had almost happened to the young man whom he had come to love like a little brother.

Erithain, preening just a little, said with mock arrogance, “As well she should, for I am worth ten of any of you!”

Barking another short laugh, Erkenthal announced, “Yep! My lord. You should have thrashed him when you had the chance!”


Hearing the jingling tack of horses arriving within the settlement, Gilraen abandoned her carding of wool and ran outside the hall. First she saw Arathorn. Assured of his safety, her eyes rove through the company to find her younger brother. Erithain sat on his horse and was talking to Elrohir. Gilraen began to breathe again. It was ever the same. Every time the Rangers went out on patrol or traveled far from home Gilraen fought to contain her worry. There was no help for it. It was a Ranger’s life, she had grown up with the realities of it. But even acceptance of a fact does not make the waiting anxiety any easier.

Handing the reins to waiting hands, and quickly dispensing orders that they would meet with Arador within the hour for debriefing, Arathorn had eyes only for his wife. Her worried look drove a knife through his heart, but he knew she would never stop him from doing what he was meant to be doing. He only regretted the pain and the worry he cost her. He closed the gap between them quickly and captured her in a fervent kiss. Breaking apart a few long moments later, Gilraen said, “Welcome home, my lord! If I’m promised kisses like that I think you should go away more often!” Her hazel eyes, released from their worries, sparkled and snapped.

“Wench!” Arathorn exclaimed, looking down upon the fiery spirit that had warmed his bed and his life. He bent for another fervent kiss.

Breaking apart this time, Gilraen looked into his eyes, “My love, there is something I must tell you. Let us walk for a bit.”

Curiosity flared to outrageous proportions, but Arathorn nonetheless followed Gilraen calmly enough and waited until they arrived at one of their favourite places to be alone, the stream just past the settlement. Arathorn could hold his curiosity no longer, “My love, what is it that you must tell me.”

Gilraen saw that her husband’s expression was expectant yet cautious. That was soon about to change, she thought amusedly. “My lord, I have missed my courses two straight months.” Waiting and watching his face slowly change from confused incomprehension to a wide-eyed delighted understanding was a pure joy for Gilraen.

Stumbling through his words, Arathorn said, “D-Do you mean that you are with child?”

“Yes, My love. I think I am.” Gilraen bubbled happily.

Tears of happiness glistening in Arathorn’s eyes, threatening to spill their slight borders as he grabbed Gilraen and swirled her around. He quickly put her down earnest concern on his face, “I’ve not injured you have I?”

Seeing the genuine concern written on his face, Gilraen quickly sought to allay his fears, “Silly! I am with child, not made of Elven porcelain.”

“How far along? When will he be born?” Gilraen smiled at the automatic assumption that the child would be a boy.

“Well, I think that I’m two months along and he or she” she emphasised ‘or she’, “will most likely be born end of February, beginning of March.”

Arathorn looked abashed at his assumption that the child would of course be a son. He sheepishly smiled, “I can hardly wait for he or she to arrive.” Gilraen smiled stood on tip toes to pull him down for a kiss.


March 2931 TA

The waiting was driving Arathorn to distraction. First there was the waiting for the child to be born. Next there was the waiting through Gilraen’s confinement, never knowing when the child was ready to drop. He questioned the healers endlessly as to whether it was normal for the child to be late and if it boded well or not. He’d badgered them with so many questions that the healers had taken to ducking around corners and dashing into houses they had not planned on visiting just to avoid the Chieftain’s son and his search for answers. Erkenthal had taken to calling him a mother hen.

Gilraen’s water had broken early this morning and since then he had been banished from his own bedroom. It was now past midday and still he had to wait. “Son, sit down!” his father said sternly, “you will not make the child come any quicker if you continue to wear down the wooden floorboards!”

Arathorn stopped his pacing just long enough to glare at his father. But he flopped down onto the bench nearest Arador all the same. The constant motion stilled, Arathorn realised just how exhausted he felt. “What is taking so long!”

“Peace, my son. Nature cannot be rushed. The child will come when the child comes.”

Arathorn surveyed his father. Tall and broad chested he looked like no midwife he’d ever seen. “Just how do you know?”

“Do you think that you are the only anxious father to ever pace these boards,” Arador chuckled wryly. “Only problem is I actually broke through a floorboard when you were born and your grandfather, Argonui made me replace it right then and there.”

“He would not.” Arathorn thought back to his memories of his grandfather and none of them suggested that Argonui would do such a thing.

“Yes, well. Your grandfather mellowed with age.” Arador laughed ruefully. “Actually it was not such a bad idea, it kept my mind occupied while I waited.”

Mulling over the curious bit of wisdom his grandfather had employed, Arathorn sat on the bench wishing he’d had some similar occupation. The waiting was truly enough to turn a somber man to drink. Just then he heard a sharp cry that could have only come from a baby. He rushed towards the flap that served as a door only to be pushed back by the one of the healer women. “My Lord, your wife has just given birth to a son. I ask you to wait a few minutes while before you come in. We want get Gilraen settled before you enter.”

“She is all right, though? No problems with the birthing?” Arathorn’s voice was growing more emotional as he went on.

“She’s fine, my lord. A little tired are perhaps, but that is to be expected.” Arathorn began to breath again.

About fifteen more somewhat anxious minutes later, the other healer opened the flap and said, “She is ready now.”

Arathorn ran into their bedroom and was stopped short by the beautiful image before him. Gilraen was sweaty and red faced and she had never looked more beautiful. She looked at him with love in her eyes, “Come, my love. You were all right along. Come and see our son.” Arathorn was transfixed by the beauty of it all and did not move until one of the healers gave him a gentle nudge forward.

Standing at the side of their bed, Arathorn bent to give Gilraen a kiss on her sweaty forehead. He then shifted his gaze the small squirming bundle his wife’s arms. His throat caught when he realised how small, yet perfectly formed the infant was. “My son!” escaped as a whisper.

“Hold him,” Gilraen said offering the small bundle.

“Are you sure I should? What if I hurt him?” Arathorn’s forehead creased with worry.

One of the healer appeared at his side at Gilraen’s head. “Nonsense, babies are tougher than you might think.” She transferred the baby to his waiting arms. “Just remember always support a newborn’s head.”

Arathorn felt the small weight of the child and looked for the first time into his son’s eyes. His own gray eyes looked up at him, so trusting and new. Arathorn’s heart filled with love and in that moment knew he would give his life to protect this tiny life in his arms. He was mesmerised looking at the beauty that was his son.

“What shall we name him?” Gilraen broke into his thoughts with the pertinent question.

Without looking up from his son, Arathorn paused in thought and said, “Aragorn, it means kingly valour.” He knelt at the side of Gilraen’s bed so that both could see the little miracle that was their child. “What do you say my son, Will Aragorn suit you as a name?”

The newborn gurgled and blew a spit bubble at which Gilraen laughed and said “I think that means he likes it.”

“In that case Aragorn it is then,” he leaned down and placed a kiss on the tiny forehead.


Summer 2933 TA

The sturdy two-year old pulled at Gilraen’s skirts in an effort to pull himself into a standing position so that he could better see what his mother was doing. Gilraen looked smilingly at her young son as he grabbed at some of the soft off-white wool that she was carding. “The wool is not for you to play with, Aragorn. I’m going to make your papa a nice new cloak for when he goes to see Elrond.” When the little boy continued to reach for the uncarded wool again, Gilraen relented, saying, “you are far too curious, my little man.” Reaching out a hand to smooth back his downy soft dark brown hair, she kissed his forehead and gave him a little wool to play with.

“Not teaching him woman’s work I hope!” Gilraen looked up and saw her younger brother leaning forward against the fence.

“Erithain! What are you doing here!” Gilraen all but shouted. She had not expected to see her family until next month at Summer Solstice.

“I have come because Father needed some dispatches delivered to Arathorn, but if you do not want me here I suppose I can always leave them undelivered.” Erithain said faining hurt.

Gilraen laughed, “Obviously, little brother, the years of command have done nothing to curb your tongue! But seriously, how is everyone? Mother? Father? Well, I hope.”

Erithain strode forward, “Everyone is well and they send their love. Now, how is my little man?” he said merrily. With big gray eyes Aragorn looked up solemnly from the piece of wool he had been inspecting. Erithain bend down to scoop up his little nephew and said, “You are getting so big! Soon you will be big enough to protect Mama from nasty Orcs!” Erithain lifted up the boy’s tunic and blew a raspberry on his stomach. The little boy let loose with a squeal of delight. Erithain took great delight in trying to make the child laugh. Aragorn always had such a serious look on his little face that Erithain could not help but try and dispel it. “Do you want to see my horse, little man?”

The gray eyes lit up with delight and he said, “Horses!”

Erithain looked from his nephew to his sister. Gilraen said with amusement evident, “Oh did I tell you? Our little Aragorn is speaking now! He can now say many things, but “Horses” and “No!” seem to be his favourite words.

The young captain said, “My bright boy!” and hefted his nephew on his shoulders, “Let us go and see the horses!” Little Aragorn giggled; uncle and nephew then made their way to the stables with Gilraen looking after them chuckling with amusement.

Upon reaching the stables, Erithain saw Aragorn’s eye grow wide. He followed the little boy’s eyes to the little colt that stood in the stall next to Erithain’s Windfleet. The doting uncle placed the little boy astride the colt and held him in place as the child petted the colt and giggled happily. Grabbing at the thick dark mane, Aragorn bounced up and down. “This colt is yours, my nephew. And when you are older, you will learn how to take care of him properly.”

“You spoil him so.”

Looking up Erithain saw Arathorn smiling and leaning against the side of the stable door. Erithain smiled back. “I hope you do not mind. He is such a dear child. I know I should have asked you first.”

“Mind? Did I say I minded?” Arathorn pushed himself away from the side of the door and walked over to Erithain and his son. “Is he one of Windfleet’s get?” he asked, gently stroking the mane of the young colt. Erithain nodded, eyeing his brother-in-law. “Then he will be fast. He and Aragorn can grow up together. As it should be. Thank you, my brother.”

Erithain nodded, speechless whenever this man he admired so much, called him brother. He looked at Arathorn as the Chieftain reached up and took his son off the colt’s back to hold him in his arms. Arathorn had been through much emotional upheaval within the last year. The birth of his son had been a joyous occasion for all tribes of the Dunedain. A new heir had been born unto the line of Isildur; the link with the past and to the future remained unbroken. In his mind’s eye Erithain could still see the three of the line of Isildur, the grandfather holding the grandson while the son dropped the oils of blessing upon the newborn’s head and it gave one faith in the continuation of their people and their legacy. It had been a day of happiness and joy. Tragedy however stuck soon afterwards.


Two years earlier…

Fall 2931 TA

Arador was traveling back from Imladris with a small party when he had been slain in a battle of hill-trolls. Erithain had been riding again with the Rangers and had been in Fornost when the report came that Arador had been killed and that Arathorn was now proclaimed Chieftain. They had been in conference together with a few of the more senior Rangers when the messenger delivered the fell news. Erithain looked at Arathorn, and he thought he would never forget how quickly he saw the man’s face change. Arathorn ever had a look of command about him but Erithain could almost see an invisible mantle of responsibility settle upon his brother-in-law and friend. Those gathered fell to one knee and bowed in obedience and recognition of Arathorn’s new sovereignty. Arathorn’s words that followed were to remain imprinted upon Erithain’s mind. He said, “Rise, my friends. I now take on the responsibilities and cares of my father with a heavy heart. I can only hope that my stewardship of the legacy will be as charged with honour and service as was my father’s. Now if you will, leave me.” The others departed but as Erithain rose and made to leave, Arathorn stayed him with a hand. Erithain looked up at his Chieftain and saw the sorrow gather in his brother-in-law’s eyes. He returned a brief look of compassion, “I am so sorry, my brother,” he whispered earnestly. Arathorn placed a hand on his shoulder and they shared a look before Arathorn went find his wife to break the tragic news.

The ceremony of Stewardship that marked each passing on and renewal of the Chieftain’s commitment was simple. Elrond presided of the investiture of the each new Chieftain. The ceremony, which was held always inside and away from prying eyes, only required the new Chieftain to swear upon the hilt of the Sword-that-was-Broken, brought from its refuge in Rivendell. Erithain could still remember the words of the oath so clearly. Arathorn held the sword’s handle with both hands, broken blade downwards and intoned the words, “ I give my life to the service of my people and to the memory what was and shall be again. To serve and to never seek for my own gain but only for that of my people.” Elrond then held his hands over Arathorn’s head uttering the Blessing, “You hold the Sword-that-was-Broken, may the Valar guide us towards the day that we shall see the Sword reforged and the light restored.”


“Erithain! What has you so pensive? You seem miles away.” Arathorn looked at his young brother-in-law.

Shaking his head out of his reverie, Erithain smiled wistfully and said, “I was thinking about Arador and how much he would have loved to see on Aragorn grow up with the colt.”

Arathorn looked at his softhearted brother-in-law and smiled, “That he would have,” he kissed the forehead of his young son still in his arms, “That he would.” Arathorn grew thoughtful and he hugged his son and said, “What say we take the little colt out for a little walk? Hmm? Horses?”

The child beamed and said “Horses!” and reached out to stroke the colt’s dark mane.

Arathorn laughed and kissed his son again, “That’s right, my bright boy! Did you want to come, little brother?”

“Nay! Far be it from me to interrupt a father-son outing. I think I’ll go and bother my sister! She’ll enjoy that!” Erithain’s eyes twinkled at the prospect.

Arathorn laughed, “Just make sure you do not leave her in too foul a mood or it will mean a burnt supper for me!”

“I’ll try, but you do take all the fun out of things!” Erithain left the stable whistling to himself.

Looking at his son and smiling Arathorn said, “Well, my little man, where shall we ride?”

Little Aragorn grabbed at his father face and stroked his father’s dark hair and then turned to his colt and stroked his dark mane. “ Papa, horse, dark!”

Arathorn laughed and said, “Yes, my son, we are both dark!” He sat the little boy on the colt but not astride and pondered his son. He was amazed at just how much he loved the boy. He never realised that he could love anyone as much as he loved him. He reflected on Erithain’s words. He fervently wished that Arador had had longer to know his grandson. Grief that was still with him after nearly two years washed over him.

Little Aragorn sensed that his papa was not happy and said “Papa sad?”

He took up his young son of the colt’s back and hugged him tight. Smiling through the grief he felt, “Yes, Papa’s sad.” He pulled the little boy back to look into his gray eyes that mirrored both his father and himself. “You see, Aragorn, your Grandpapa whom Papa loved very much has gone away and left Papa to carry on. And it sometimes makes Papa sad.”

Aragorn had a very serious expression on his face and seemed to ponder these words very carefully. Arathorn was not sure how much the little boy understood but he did wish him to know. It was never too early to teach him about his destiny and Arathorn made a decision then and there. “I tell you what. We’ll take the colt out for a walk some other time. There is something I want to show you.”

Aragorn played with the hay in behind Arathorn has he saddled up Nestadren, his own chestnut stallion. Both then seated in the saddle, Aragorn in front with a protective fatherly arm around him bounced with excitement, “Ride horse!” Arathorn kissed the top of the dark, downy soft hair and smiled as he touched the sides of Nestadren, signaling a brisk walk.

They peaceably rode along the hill path, Aragorn ever so often pointed and shouted such things as “Bird!”, “Rabbit!” His running commentary on the flora and fauna of the area did much to soothe Arathorn’s grief and occasionally caused him to burst out laughing.

Just as the white stones were coming into view around the bend in the hill path, Arathorn stilled Aragorn’s flailing arms and said, “Shh-shh, my son! This is what I meant you to see.” He smoothed back the little boy’s dark hair and kissed the top of his head.

As they walked across what used to be the Great Gate, Aragorn stopped squirming and fell silent. His gray eyes grew wider as he looked around and he bit his lower lip pensively. Arathorn also fell silent as the aura of the place again worked its way into Arathorn’s very soul demanding that it be restored. Arathorn stopped Nestadren in the middle of the debris-strewn thoroughfare and dismounted. He looked around and then back up at his son still seated on the horse. He noticed the somber look upon the little face and carefully unseated the child taking him into his arms. Looking his son in the eye, he said, “Aragorn, you are heir to a great and tragic legacy. After me, you are Isildur’s heir. This ruin, this once great city of Fornost is the city of your forefathers. This is your city. This is who you are and who you will grow to be, my son.” He put the child down to allow him to walk on the streets of his forbearers. Aragorn walked quietly with his hand in his father’s down through the heart of the city. The gentle, whispering breeze flowed through the deserted buildings and crumbled archways and into the soul of the little boy, planting a seed of belonging that would not take root for many years and would flower only after many places traveled.


Author’s note: According to the Encyclopedia of Arda, online edition Tolkien played with the idea of Aragorn’s name meaning “kingly valour” but later discarded the idea. I needed something for Aragorn’s name to mean and decided to use the discarded idea as it seemed the best idea.

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