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For Virtuella for her birthday, and for the beginning of Advent.
Revelations of Family
As the trainees’ patrol left Lifewater Farm, Malvegern looked forward along the line, which Finwë was leading at the moment, and smiled at Baerdion. “Well, we have left the people here better off than when we arrived, I believe. And with their new hounds they are better guarded than before as well.”
The hunters had brought back three stags and a half-grown shoat, which had fed all of the party and still left the farm with plenty of meat for the next week. Several of the young Men had set snares about the lake, which had brought in even more food in the form of coneys and two quail; and Geldir had presented Adiella with several rabbit skins he’d caught and worked over the course of their patrol. “I hope that you can find them useful to decorate perhaps a pair of gloves for the winter,” he told her, and she’d rewarded him with another kiss to the cheek, which had pleased him greatly.
Farmer Carf and his wife were also pleased with the work the young Rangers had performed on the farm during the last days of their stay. Most of the harvest was in, and there had been a good start in the fall plowing and harrowing. The remains of the burned shed had been cleared away, and lumber had been stacked about the site for its replacement.
Peredhrion had now demonstrated that he was good at mending leatherwork. When Londo had exclaimed at how well the young Man had repaired part of the plow harness, Peredhrion explained that he had been required to spend three months working with the leather worker who provided all of the harness work for Rivendell’s stables.
“Why would they have you, who was trained as a healer, to learn such work?” Londo’s brother asked.
Peredhrion colored slightly, but admitted, “It was because I was caught taking apart some of the harnessing for the sledge on which hay was carried. I was twelve at the time, and was both curious and bored, and was making rather a pest of myself about the farm plots. Naneth and m-Master Elrond both felt it would be good for me to learn to turn my mind to making rather than marring, and it proved most useful when I was out on patrols with the Twins as I was often set to repairing tears to saddle bags and such.” He smiled ruefully. “I doubt that it was truly that much of a punishment, but I never did such a thing again.”
Several of those who were working about the barn at the time smiled to think that the Princeling also got into mischief when he was just a boy, and quickly shared this intelligence with others in the patrol.
Malvegern smiled at the thought of the staid, Elvish young Man having acted much as his own sons had done at the same age. Perhaps there wasn’t as much distance to be bridged between Peredhrion and the other trainees as it had seemed.
Two of Sedras’s Men rode ahead to herald the return of the patrol. Halbarad and Varadorn had gone forward to scout the way, and Geldir and Orominion ranged behind them. They’d lost but one recruit, which thought caused the Man to go solemn. How he wished they’d lost none at all! But it was still far less than they usually lost, and for that they had Peredhrion to thank as much as the Powers.
From the looks of it, he will be command much respect and honor once he is recognized as our Chieftain, he thought.
It appeared Baerdion was thinking along much the same lines. “I wonder if the prophecies will prove true,” he murmured over the clopping of the horses’ hooves, “that in his day the Kingship will be renewed, and north and south kingdoms reunited at long last? Perhaps we might well live to see this happen!”
“From your lips to the ears of the Valar,” Malvegern answered.
They shared a laugh born of sheer hope.
The days were shortening, so the company chose its campsite by about the sixth hour of the afternoon as told by the Steward’s Dwarf-made clock, or so Halbarad judged it. Within two moons, he realized, it would most likely be dark by this time, while but a few weeks back the Sun had stood much higher. For some reason he felt the hair on his arms prickle at the thought. Were it not for the presence of Daernaneth and Uncle Sedras the troop of trainees would most likely have continued on until sunset; but travel was impeded by the need to find a place that could support tents both for their female guest and for those who were wounded, as well as accommodating more horses and a heavy wagon.
Carniaxo and Ivorwen’s mare trailed the wagon. Farmer Carf had summoned a farrier who came with his portable forge. The Man had smoothed the mare’s hoof and wrapped the hock before fitting her with a new shoe. He’d found the mare apparently sound, but had advised against her being ridden for at least three days to be certain she had taken no permanent damage from her flight during the storm. Therefore Ivorwen had ridden on the wagon’s bench alongside the one assigned to drive it, while Peredhrion rode in the wagon’s bed alongside the prisoners for the first day of travel.
The prisoners were now all conscious and aware of their circumstances, and so far had given no problems. The one who’d fallen over the fence fought an infection, while the one who’d been injured on his side was still weak with blood loss. The one who’d lost his hand was in a good deal of pain, and the last, the one who’d been struck on the head by Farmer Carf, found he could not easily sit up without growing dizzy and nauseous and so had given up much of his belligerence. Peredhrion had kept watch over them all as they traveled, and when at last the camp was set up he oversaw the removal of the four of them to the tent prepared for them, calling for hot water and his healer’s bag so that he might hopefully help the one with the infection.
Halbarad assisted his grandmother to descend from the wagon, and they were immediately joined by Sedras.
“Have you spoken much with him?” Sedras asked his mother.
But she was shaking her head already. “He lay with his head toward the tail of the wagon, so we could not easily converse. Nor did I feel it to be politic to speak with him about personal matters with the prisoners present. What if one should escape and carry away news that this one did survive in spite of the belief he’d died when little more than a babe in arms? Do you think that the great Enemy would allow such intelligence to be ignored? No, better to speak with him perhaps this evening under the guise of him examining my shoulder. Or do you not agree?”
So it happened. Once the tents were erected, the prisoners secured and the cooking fire was lit, Ivorwen asked that her grandson and the young healer be allowed to attend on her. Malvegern gave her a knowing smile as he went to summon Halbarad and Peredhrion to her.
Halbarad had been cleaning tack, and finished the saddle and bridle he’d been working on before allowing Huor to take his place. Peredhrion took longer to appear at the door to the tent where the Steward’s mother would sleep that night. He gave a deep bow, but said not a word.
“You could not come sooner?” she asked.
“I was seeing to the prisoner whose side was impaled on a fence pale,” he answered. “There has been infection, and I have been trying to express the pus and flush the wound. I fear that the fight to save him may well take another day at the least, whether the infection clears or—or takes him in the end.”
Her face grew solemn. “I am sorry to take you from his side,” she said softly. “My shoulder is of little enough concern compared to a Man’s life.”
He smiled gently, and it lit his face. “All wounds and injuries are of the greatest concern to those who bear them, Lady Ivorwen.”
Her expression grew somewhat rueful. “Will you not call me Daernaneth as does your cousin here?” she asked.
He gave a slight shake to his head. “Not yet, if you can bear with me. As of yet only Berevrion is certain of my true identity, although a couple of others suspect strongly who my father was. I do not wish to reveal myself fully.” His voice was very soft as he said this. “Would you have me examine your shoulder?”
At her nod he stumped along behind her. His foot caught on the ground and he almost fell, and for the first time Halbarad caught a glimpse of the frustration the mass of bandages and splinting of the foot caused him. “I cannot continue with this indefinitely,” he admitted, catching Halbarad’s gaze. “One more day, and I will have to remove it all. The foot will not take much longer to heal without the bandaging, and although I admit it is likely to remain tender and even painful at times without the protection, it shall be far easier to do what I must while we travel.”
He took deep breaths to center himself, and placed a hand on each of her shoulders, feeling deep to compare the feel on the two sides. He began to massage her shoulders on each side of her neck, moving slowly outwards, then returning to the neck and working outwards again, and finally moving both hands to the one that had been injured and massaging on both sides of the joint. “It is warm, but not heated as it was before it returned to its place,” he commented. “It heals nicely.”
Ivorwen smiled and relaxed into the massage. “It feels nearly normal,” she murmured.
At last he returned his hands to either side of her neck, and felt the line of her spine with his thumbs. “It is slightly off center, here in the neck, and here between the shoulder blades,” he noted.
Having her stand and turn slightly, he came to stand behind her and had her lace her fingers together over her head, and then lacing his arms through the loop he gave a carefully calculated pull upwards, after which he had her sit again with her arms in her lap while he again felt down the line of her spine. At last he gently grasped her head and did similarly to what he’d done before, and smiled at her pleased surprise.
“I did not realize that these were uncomfortable until you managed to put them in place properly!” the woman exclaimed.
He smiled as he massaged the back of her neck. “While the shoulder was out of place your muscles tightened in protest. It is not uncommon to find the spine itself slightly twisted afterwards, and it is easy enough to straighten things once again, although one must not pull too strongly for fear of making things worse.” Again he moved down near the other site he’d noted had been out of proper alignment, and cupped his hands over the place, singing softly under his breath before he resumed massaging there, and finally moving back to the shoulder, again cupping the joint before once more massaging that area as well. “I believe you will find yourself feeling much more comfortable, Lady,” he said softly as he finally straightened.
Sedras had been watching with approval. “Thank you for easing my naneth so,” he said. “Elrond has trained you more thoroughly than we had realized. Here, let me offer you this seat that you might not have to loom over us while we speak together.”
He pressed the young Man to take his stool, and offered him a cup of watered wine before seating himself comfortably upon the ground beside Halbarad. “Your mother did not speak of me?” he asked.
Peredhrion shook his head. “If she did, then it was in a manner that I did not recognize indicated she had two brothers. I knew of my Uncle Halbaleg and my Aunt Anneth and that they were married, but did not realize that he was my mother’s brother until I was perhaps eight years of age. There were seven who came from time to time to speak with Naneth and to see me. I knew that they were kinsmen of one sort or another, but was not advised as to how particularly we were related or why they cared to visit us as they did. I was discouraged from speaking with outsiders or visitors to the Last Homely House, although they did not forbid me to leave our rooms when others came. I simply was allowed to know that it was not wise to announce my presence within the valley to most strangers. I did speak with a few such people, and was allowed to mix freely with any who were Elves who came to consult with the Lord of Imladris. But when most Men came I was advised to absent myself, or Elladan or Elrohir or Glorfindel would take me out of the house to practice tracking and hunting until they were gone. I seldom had much to do with Men or women unless they had been brought for healing.”
The others nodded their understanding of what he told them. “Did your naneth never speak of your family, then?”
He shrugged. “Rarely did she do so. I knew that my father had been a Ranger of the Dúnedain and that he died in a battle with orcs of the Hithglaer. I remember him as being tall, and I remember he always wore beautiful boots, decorated with colored carving. I know that my mother loved him dearly, and that she misses him terribly. I believed that she did not speak more of him because of the pain of his death. Now and then she would speak of her childhood and what she did with other girls, of hunting for mushrooms and learning to weave, of swimming in the river and working in the fields. She spoke of caring for the baby, but did not tell me whose baby it was. She remembered being ill and her own naneth nursing her, urging her to drink the draughts provided, and how she tried not to swallow them. She said her father taught her to ride and to care for her horse. But most of her stories were those tales she said were told among our people.
“I learned my true name when I turned twenty. I had been out on a patrol with—with Elladan and Elrohir and those who usually ride with them. We were attacked by two troops of orcs, and we all fought desperately, especially during the second battle, for they appeared determined to kill us all. The orcs of the Hithglaer hate the twins deeply, for they have done their best to destroy every orc they come across. Ever since the Lady Celebrían, Elrond’s wife, was abducted by orcs and received a poisoned wound that forced her to sail to Elvenhome, their sons have sought to avenge themselves upon the whole race of such creatures. The orcs, in turn, have spent much of the last five centuries attempting to destroy Elladan and Elrohir.
“There were two of us who were slain on that patrol, and two others wounded whose lives I saved while the twins protected us. I then rejoined the battle and slew four more while Elladan and one other Elf carried the wounded Elves safely away. Elrohir and two fellow warriors and I cleared the pass of the rest. They have told me that I slew fourteen orcs that night, one of whom I realized was intending to strike Elrohir down from behind. I remember how his leer changed to dismay when my sword sheered away the arm holding his weapon, and how Elrohir slew another attacking him from his front at the same moment, and turned to strike away the head of still another immediately.
“I don’t remember much more of that battle, I fear—only that it seemed to go on forever before we realized there were none left to defend ourselves from. The others so lauded me to m-Master Elrond that he decided that I should indeed be treated as a Man grown from that moment, and the next day he called me before him and told me my true name and my parentage, and told me that it was time that I look to return to my own people to take up my role as Chieftain of the Dúnedain.”
“And you’d known nothing of your place among us until that day?” Sedras demanded.
“That is true.”
Ivorwen was shaking her head in disbelief. “You were known there by another name?”
“I was given the child’s name of Estel. So everyone called me all through the time I dwelt there in Rivendell.”
She persisted, “And you did not remember the name your father gave you?”
Again he shook his head. “No, it was not familiar to me. Although when you called me Ari there on Amon Sûl, then I knew it for the dear-name I’d answered to before my father’s death.”
She dashed away errant tears. “So, you do have some memories of your life before you were taken to Rivendell. Hopefully that will help you find your place amongst us again.”
“Hopefully,” he agreed, although he did not sound fully certain.
The two trainees returned to the others and helped in the chores for the evening. Sedras volunteered to take the first watch. Orominion and Hedron’s father stood guard on the prisoners’ tent, and after checking on the welfare of the wounded one last time, Peredhrion bedded down alongside Halbarad not far from his charges.
“So, the Elves did indeed name you Hope,” Halbarad said softly.
“Have I not told you this more than once?”
“I suppose it took hearing you say this to our daernaneth to believe it fully.”
“I do not understand why you might think I should lie about such a thing,” Peredhrion answered.
Halbarad answered with a wordless humph. After a moment he gave a chuckle. “I can imagine you must be growing confused with so many names—Aragorn, Ari, Estel, and now Peredhrion. How difficult it must be to remember that all of them mean you!”
His cousin gave a soft bark of a laugh in return. “I imagine how difficult it must have been to be one of the Noldor returning to Middle Earth, each with a mother-name and a father-name and who knows how many epessës or nicknames besides, and they get here to the hither shore and they must change their names from Quenya to Sindarin instead. Finderato becomes Finrod Felagund, Nom, Nomin, Friend-of-Men, and so on.”
“So, do you see yourself gathering names and nicknames and titles all through your lifetime as was common to the old Elves?”
Peredhrion turned on his side to better see Halbarad’s face. “Why shouldn’t I?”
They grinned at one another. “I can see it now,” Halbarad said cheerfully. “One day they will need an entire volume just to hold all of the names they call you by.”
“Well, they will know I was important, won’t they?”
They laughed together, and there was a stirring amongst the other young Men who could hear the laughter and wondered what it was about.
Peredhrion rolled upon his back once more. “I am wondering how long it will take for me to become accustomed to sleeping in a proper bed when we are back in your father’s keep,” he murmured as he settled himself as well as he could.
“Probably a few days,” came the answer.
They were quiet for a time before Halbarad asked a question he’d been pondering for several days. “Do you hate the Elves for not telling you your proper name and all for so very long?”
Peredhrion turned his head to look at him again. “Hate them? Why? What would make you think such a thing?”
“Well—well, you can barely say Lord Elrond’s name. You stammer every time, and it’s much the same when you name Elladan and Elrohir.”
Peredhrion lay back and laughed loud and long. “You think that this signifies that I hate them?” he finally said. “Ah, no, my friend—it does not mean that I hate them. It’s only—ha! It’s only that it is strange to me to name them so!”
Peredhrion struggled to turn and lean upon his elbow, his eyes somehow rueful and laughing at the same time. “There is another designation for me—Arathornion, the son of Arathorn. He was my father, my Papa. I know that as a very small child I loved him dearly, and I honor him that he gave me life and that he and my mother were so devoted to one another. I honor him for not allowing others to take all of the risks for him, that he led those who fought for our people. I honor him for the fact that he died protecting us all.
“But it was—it was Elrond who was there to help pick me up when I was small, who cleaned my knees when I skinned them, who took turns with my naneth caring for me when I was ill or injured. It was on his knee as well as that of my naneth that I learned to read. He and my naneth taught me to sing. It was from him I learned the history of our families, both mortal and immortal, although I did not appreciate that Beren and Tuor, Lúthien and Idril, Thingol and Melian, Eärendil and Elwing were as much my ancestors as his, not until the day he gave me back the name I’d been granted at my birth. I have but one mother, one Naneth, but two fathers, my Papa Aragorn and my Adar Elrond. Now that I am given back, it does not seem proper to speak of him as Ada anymore. It feels disrespectful, somehow, to name him so when I now dwell amongst the Men of the Dúnedain who will know me as Arathorn’s son. But it feels—clumsy to call him as they know him, as Master of Imladris, or Rivendell as it is more commonly called now. So when I start to say my adar I have to stop and correct myself. And Elladan and Elrohir I try not to refer to as I have all my life as my brothers, not here before the others. I know I look more the Elf in their eyes than I do a Man. If I were to continue to call the Peredhil my family, what would they make of that, do you think?”
All Halbarad could think to say was, “I see.” He lay back, his hand now pillowed on his right forearm. “We will find it rather difficult to appreciate that now you do have two families, I fear. You are right in your reasoning.” After a pause he added, “Please forgive me for not understanding.”
His cousin also lay back. “Naneth could tell me so little, for she and Ada were trying so hard to protect me. Too much knowledge of my family here could draw the wrong attention from anyone who stayed in the healing wing of the house, so Nana never named her parents or what brothers or sisters she might have had. I knew about my father and how he died, for I was made to memorize my ancestors all of the way back to Elros Tar-Minyatur, although I did not know they were indeed my ancestors. I was even shown where Arathorn was buried, near where he fell, although I did not realize that this was my papa’s grave. And I grieve that I did not honor this fallen one as I truly ought to have done—as both the fallen Chieftain of the northern Dúnedain and as my own Papa, who always lifted me up onto his shoulders when he returned to our home, there just before he would put his arms about my Mama and pull her to him to kiss her.”
All was said so softly, so quietly, so privately. For the first time Halbarad felt he was truly seeing the heart of this, his now so beloved companion, the one who fought like a demon and healed like an angel of mercy, who showed so many of the Kings’ Gifts.
In that moment Halbarad of the Northern Dúnedain knew a vision of a possible future. He saw Aragorn son of Arathorn, dressed in ancient armor, kneeling before someone dressed in white who was setting what he knew must be the Winged Crown of Gondor on his brow. He then stood up, and Halbarad could see that he was taller even than he was now, fully muscled, his face bearded, his eyes filled with wisdom, compassion, joy, and—
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