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Chapter 10 – Acceptance
The first few weeks of their new life in Imladris drifted by in something of a blur for Gilraen. The chaotic times, that had come to characterise her life for the last few months had buffeted her about pretty hard and it had left her feeling slightly numb to sensations. What was more, all of the worry, fear and cutting edge anxiety, which were the resultant baggage of life-defining questions being dealt with, utterly ceased with their acceptance into Elrond’s house. It seemed an unreal calm had settled upon Gilraen. She felt as if she was sleepwalking through days upon end, drifting. There was still little Aragorn to be looked after and she put whatever attentions she could muster into his care and attention. But after he went to sleep or the twins came looking to spend the day with him, she was at a loss. This day was such a day. Elladan and Elrohir, who had both volunteered to spend the next few months within Rivendell’s border so that they could be near the little heir, had taken Aragorn to the stables to visit little Gilgilath. While she was anxious to for little Aragorn to continue his relationship with the twin Elves, especially Elladan and Aragorn had shared such a special bond, Gilraen felt lost without her focus in life, namely her son, not in arms’ reach and paced the beautiful gardens aimlessly.
Unbeknowst to her, Elrond watched her roam the gardens rubbing her arms and pacing from above on his balcony connecting unto his study. He turned away from balcony, walked back into his study and called Elmiran to him. The Elf appeared instantly, as he was on order to stand attendance on Elrond’s door in case he should be needed. “Yes, my lord?”
“Elmiran, you will find the Lady Gilraen walking in the rose garden down below. Please tell her that I wish to speak with her.”
“At once, my lord.” The Elf bowed low, hand on heart and set off upon his errand.
Elrond returned to the balcony and leaned on the railing, staring straight ahead, allowing himself a moment to drink in the beauty that surrounded him. The air was fresh and sweet and had that slight nip in the air that signaled winter was on the wing. Winters in Imladris were never harsh owing to Vilya, the ring that was one of the hidden three Elven rings and was Elrond’s cross to bear. He shook off such thoughts and the healing airs of Imladris did the rest. Elrond breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly and felt himself calming as he did. He was brought back to the here and now by the opening of the study door and the soft footsteps that gave away the identity of the person who entered.
“My Lord, you wished to see me?” Gilraen’s eyes looked slightly lost when he walked back inside to meet with Aragorn’s mother.
“Yes, I did,” he responded kindly as he motioned to the same brocade covered sofa she had sat on that first day in Imladris.
Gilraen sat on the edge of the sofa, quiet but with an expectant and slightly anxious mien about her, hands clasped in her lap and her back straight. Elrond sigh inwardly, wishing that she could relax but he guessed with all that the wife of Arathorn had been through, it was only to be expected.
“I thought that we might talk of little Aragorn’s future a bit.” Elrond said casually, standing at the table next to the sofa, filling two fluted wine glasses with a fine Dorwinian vintage that he had a penchance for.
Gilraen looked immediately tense, “You said that Aragorn and I could stay here!”
Elrond inwardly cursed himself for not broaching the subject more delicately. He walked around the chair and handed Gilraen one of the glasses as he seated himself in a subtle swished of deep green silken fabric. “Lady Gilraen, your home for as long as you want, is here in Imladris. I meant what I said.”
Colouring slightly, Gilraen bit back her lips and then in a low voice said, “I am sorry, my Lord. I seemed to have forgotten how to control my emotions these past few weeks, I do beg pardon.”
Placing a comforting and hopefully healing hand on Gilraen’s arm, “Think not on it. You have been through more than most could bear. It is understandable.”
Gilraen looked into pale blue eyes and could see from where the twins received their compassionate streak that she had come to count upon these last few weeks. She smiled gently and in a clear voice a little more representative of her own spirited personality, “Now, what was it you wish to speak of?”
Admiring the woman’s fortitude and ability to rise above her own pain, Elrond said, “We must discuss how we are to keep little Aragorn safely hidden from those who would seek him. Imladris can hide much, but I think it best that we take other precautions as well.” He paused shifting his gaze until it fell upon the ornate telescope that had been a gift from his children many years ago standing across the room. He was not sure how she would react to the suggestions he was about to make.
“What other precautions, my lord.” Gilraen studied the Lord of Imladris and saw him take a deep breath before he again spoke.
The Elf lord looked back at her, eyes soft but purposeful, “The boy must not be told of his heritage, not until he is of age. We cannot allow him to remember who he is,” the Elf seeing the pain that was again starting to build in Gilraen’s eyes, plunged ahead with what needed to be said, “For a time he must even his name behind.”
Gilraen felt a knife slash through her heart and in front of her eyes she saw her dying husband asking Aragorn to be brave. She stared at Elrond, at first speechless in her pain, “My husband is dead, and now you would rob me of my memories of him, too!” She whispered fervently. “My memories and telling Aragorn of his father and his sacrifices and his love for his son are all I have left of him and yet, you take it from me!! How can you ask this of me?” She asked as she leapt up from the sofa to wheel upon Elrond.
Elrond simply sat and allowed her unleash her fury upon him. At length he whispered, “It is the only way to keep him safe.”
Gilraen simply stared at him in her fury. She thought of Arathorn and the love he bore for his little boy and felt as hollow as she had ever felt, grieving that she would not be able to speak of many things to her son. That he would not grow up knowing of his father’s love. But Arathorn had given his life to see his son safe and she knew she could not fail him or his memory now. Anguished acceptance settled upon her, and she knew she would do anything to keep the child whom they both loved more than life itself safe. Tears glittered in her eyes as she sank upon the sofa once again. “What must we do?”
Breathing a heartfelt sigh at the tormented sacrifice he had borne witness to, Elrond said, “We will name him Estel.”
Bright, searing pain was coursing through him. He could feel the chair beneath him and he could see Erkenthal, Arathorn’s lieutenant, in front of him, his lips forming the words of the unheard report of the mission that had sent his family to Imladris. Next was a ringing sound in his ears as what he had heard, had begun to sink in. Another brother lost. Erithain realised that all eyes were upon him expecting him to do something, to say something. How can they expect anything of me after so much has been taken he thought angrily. He was regent now. An unwelcome task reluctantly agreed to was now thrust upon him. Through the pain he realised that he must make at least a token gesture of recognition of such news. He looked up from the centerpiece upon which he had been fixating. With blank blue eyes he gazed upon the stricken Ranger, “I thank you for this news,” he said in a lifeless voice. “I accept the responsibility that has been deemed mine by,” here his voice caught, “the former chieftain.” Erithain breathed in deeply, willing body and soul to be held together for only a few minutes more, enough to dismiss the collected Rangers with some semblance of dignity. It was one of the hardest things he had ever had to do. “Now, please leave me and tend to your families.”
Casting looks of various intensities at the young man who was to serve as Regent to the little heir, the Rangers left. When it was only Erkenthal and Erithain, the older man approached the chair in which the adopted little brother of his beloved Chieftain sat. “My lord---“
Erithain closed his eyes in reaction to the flare of pain that came with the newly minted title spoken sorrowfully by one who had ever teased him. He held up his hand to still the loved and respected man’s tongue. “Please, my friend,” he whispered fervently and quickly, lest more emotion than he cared to expose could escape the bounds of his sorrow, “I must be left alone.” He looked at the older lieutenant to his brother-in-law and dear friend.
Erkenthal beheld eyes full of shock and pain, but also a desperate desire for privacy. After many years and many companions lost he recognised this sort of grief and knew that it needed to find first expression in solitude, only then would it allow any kind of witness. “Of course, my lord.”
Erithain heard the older man’s footsteps leave the room but he was no longer paying close attention to the world beyond the extent of his sense of touch. He sat frozen to the chair, Arathorn’s chair, the chieftain’s chair. Suddenly he felt incredibly alone and completely unable to handle all that had befallen him. He sat for hours like just staring at the centerpiece and blinking. Assaulted by his memories, Erithain thought of his two beloved older brothers, Elassan and Alarael. Five years and the pain was still present. He had learned how to live with that pain and Arathorn had shown the way past it and towards manhood, that his own father Dirhael, had not been able to, wrapped up as he was in his own cocoon of sadness, anger and recrimination. And now Arathorn was gone.
Bitter tears of anger and sorrow began flowing and he could find no way to stop them. He was all alone. There was no one to turn to for comfort and advice. He placed his head on his crossed arms resting on the table and sobbed eventually falling into sleep.
He awoke to the sensation of a hand gently stroking his hair, at least he thought he was awake. He could not be quite sure. A sense of well-being filled him as he opened his eyes finding the room filled with a warm gentle glow. He looked up as the hand ceased its stroking of his hair and saw a luminescently beautiful she-elf wearing a silver filigree circlet of leaves standing beside him. She looked kindly on upon him, “Who are you?” he asked resisting the impulse to rub his eyes in an effort prove that she was really there.
The She-elf said, “I am the Lady of Light, Galadriel is my name. I come to you in this dream of borne of exhaustion. Erithain, son of Dirhael, you are in great pain and doubt. But Arathorn had great faith in you, this I know. And that faith is not misplaced. You will find a way through this pain and hold the Dunedain in trust for Aragorn. On this all depends.
Erithain looked at the beautiful she-elf at first disbelieving. “How, how can I go on? I am no leader, and I have never desired to be. I had only wished to serve Arathorn and now he is dead. I am at a loss.”
“It is in your heart where you will find your strength to go on. You loved Arathorn well. Serve him now by preserving the ways of the Dunedain until his son returns.” She gently lifted him from the chair and stood in front of him staring into his troubled blue eyes, “You will find a way.” She leaned forward to kiss him on the forehead.
Erithain awoke with a start. He looked around the now-darkened room and pushed the chair back to stand. At that faint noise Erkenthal entered the room. Erithain looked up at first a bit startled and then spoke with a dawning recognition, “Erkenthal, how long have you been waiting at my door?”
The older Ranger looked him square in the eye and said solemnly, “For as long as it was needed, my lord. I am at your service always.”
Tears clouded Erithain’s eyes. He looked Arathorn’s second in command, the man he had come to love and respect and saw the look of loyalty shining in the man’s eyes. He placed a grateful hand on the red-haired man’s shoulder and said in a heartfelt, full voice. “Thank you.”
A/N: The chapter is short but I felt that I needed to end it where it was.
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