"This cannot stand, Sire." King Thengel watched his Captain with ill-disguised uncertainty.
"We can absolutely confirm the presence of Orcs?" he asked, a variation of the same question he had asked several times since the group had come storming into the throne room.
Standing beside his guardian, Aragorn was seething.
How can a king be so weak? he nigh on shouted in his mind toward his companion. I do not need your gifts to tell he does not desire to send his men!
Lainien's frown deepened.
"Aye, Sire," Déor responded fervently. "Lainien confirmed with Calen before he died," he continued, his voice dancing on the edge of desperate.
The King looked less than satisfied by this answer, and his eyes flickered to Lainien's.
The elf raised a brow at him.
Aragorn prickled with anger.
The King sighed.
"Very well," he said, leaning back against his throne. "Go, and let us be rid of these ghastly creatures." He waived his hand in a shooing motion before rubbing the side of his temple.
Lainien's hand shot out to wrap her fingers around Aragorn's wrist in an iron grip, preventing the man from taking a step forward. He turned to glare at her.
He'd deserve it, he grumbled. Lainien's lip twitched in a half smile.
"Let's go," she said, tightening her hold around her charge's wrist.
The great thundering of hooves beating against the ground signaled the call to war better than any drum.
Still far in the distance, great dark clouds of smoke marked their destination, and Lainien strained her sight in an attempt to see their enemy. All around her, the thoughts of the Rohirrum soldiers whirled as one – each hardened, focused, and ready for the battle to come. Lainien searched for the one who mattered most, content to note that her charge was similarly calm and focused. He is no longer a child, she reminded herself. When they came within a distance allowing the eyes of men to see the wreckage, Déor raised his spear and called for a halt. In an impressive display, the Riders of Rohan split off around their Captain to form a perfect circle. Lainien found herself knee-to-knee with Hamet, their mounts shifting beneath them. The man gave her a small smile.
"Riders of Rohan," Déor called. "My brothers, harken to me now."
Around the circle, each man sat a little straighter in his saddle.
"We fight today for our people, to avenge their untimely and unjust demise." Déor took off his helmet and bowed his head. There was a great rustle as the gathered men followed suit. Silence reigned for several long moments, and Lainien closed her eyes.
Déor straightened, donning his helmet once more. "But we also fight to protect," he continued, his voice booming and proud. "We fight to ensure our people will suffer no more, so they may not fear the darkness of death or foul creature!"
The men lifted their helmets to their heads and cheered.
"So let us ride, men of Rohan," he called, raising his spear. "And let us fight for our people!"
The men cheered again, and with another thrust of his spear into the air, Déor lead his men in a charge. Lainien felt her mount burst forward with speed as the soldiers each raced behind their Captain, spears raised and determination shining in their eyes. The village loomed ahead, a smoking pile of rubble whose skeletons of wood and timber were all that remained. Lainien's heart pounded in her chest as Déor raised his spear and gave a great bellowing cry.
From the ruins of the smoking structures crawled dark and ugly creatures, their screeching cries reaching Lainien's sensitive ears. They gathered in swarms, seeming to materialize out of nooks of dead wood and scorched grass, and scrambled to escape their oncoming doom.
"Hamet!" Déor called, his voice booming over the sounds of thundering hooves.
With a commanding, "On me!" Hamet broke off from the group, followed by a small contingent of riders, and headed straight to the village.
In perfect execution of the plan Déor had detailed to his two new companions, Hamet lead the charge into the village, spear held high and followed by an intimidating force of Rohirrum. The display led to a mass exodus of the vile creatures, stumbling over each other in their haste to escape the confines of the village and out onto the plains.
Déor pointed with his spear, a great bellow leaving his lips as the remainder of the Rohirrum charged at the creatures. Lainien let loose her reigns, grasping tightly to her mount with her legs, and took steady aim—matching her breaths to the even cadence of hooves beating against the ground. With a breath, she released her arrow.
At the first felled orc, the riders of Rohan cheered, encouraging their mounts to close the distance to their prey. Two more orcs fell before the first horse came upon the fleeing creatures, and then chaos.
Lainien exchanged her bow for her twin blades, striking with precision and keeping her thoughts trained fiercely on her charge. Hoof beats mixed with the singing of blades, the screams of the orcs, and the grunts of warriors fighting for their lives to create the discordant cacophony of noise belonging to battle.
This is madness, came Aragorn's first coherent thought, and Lainien turned her dark eyes to her charge. His face was set in firm determination, but Lainien could see the sliver of anxiety behind his eyes. He slashed his sword over to his left where another orc had approached, axe raised overhead. Aragorn grunted with the force of parrying the axe blow, but he quickly pushed forward to slice at the orc's unprotected chest.
He turned to parry another slash from an orc on his horse's right flank, laying almost flat on his back in the saddle to prevent the ugly chipped blade from catching his mount.
A guttural cry caught Lainien's attention back to her own surroundings in time to knock the blade from an orc with one sword, the other following to swiftly slice the throat of her attacker. She steered her mount closer to her charge, cutting off a creature moving toward Aragorn and his steed.
The fighting was over quickly, the sheer numbers of the Rohirrum soldiers bearing down upon the orcs. Lainien dispatched the final straggler attempting to flee with a quiet thrum of her bow, and met Déor's eyes.
The man's forearms were covered with sickly black blood and his eyes were solemn and clear.
"Back to the village," he boomed, raising his sword—his spear strapped, broken, to his saddle.
Lainien led her horse forward, keeping a steady eye on her charge's back as he fell in line with Déor.
They reached the edge of the town and were greeted by the earie silence that only death can produce. Smoke rose steadily from the thatched roof before her, and Lainien felt the keen stab of despair from those who searched fruitlessly for survivors.
The Rohirrum spread out connecting with their brethren who had followed Hamet into the village. Ahead of her, Déor and Aragorn dismounted, both keeping their swords at the ready.
Lainien followed them in dismounting, picking her way carefully through the wreckage, listening.
A tendril of fear whispered in her mind.
"Here," Lainien called, turning to the remains of a small building on her left. "There's someone alive," she said, turning to see Gram had appeared at her side. He nodded, moving carefully into the rubble, his feet crushing the burnt wood into ash.
Like a small drop of water trickling slowly, awareness pressed onto Lainien's senses. "There," she whispered, moving to the back of what she could now see was a small house. Gram followed her gaze to where the once sturdy wooden front door had been blasted from its hinges, and now lay propped against the far wall. The man moved to it and lifted the door, revealing a soot-covered woman, her eyes closed but her chest rising faintly.
Gram pressed his fingers gently to her neck before running his hands around her head. They came away bloody.
"She's still breathing," he said, turning to Lainien, "but we need to get her back quickly." The elf nodded, moving to assist Gram as he began to lift the woman gently.
Lainien stood rigid for half a second, the utter terror from the mental cry freezing her to the spot. Then she was gone, spinning on her heel and flying from the small house toward the call of her charge.
She barely noticed the shocked cries of the Rohirrum as she navigated the short distance at inhuman speed, following the desperate thread of thoughts across a small town square and into a larger building, only partially destroyed from fire. She came to a skidding halt in the doorway, her blades drawn and murderous intent in her gaze. Her eyes locked onto her charge, kneeling with his back to her, the bodies of two bloodied and dead orcs surrounding him.
"Lana," Aragorn called, turning to her with fear and desperation in his eyes, "help him."
Lainien's eyes assed her charge, flickering over the specks of blood on his face and his hands. Seeing no damage, her eyes moved to the slumped form in front of Aragorn. And felt her chest tighten.
Hamet sat leaning against a worn and singed pillar, eyes flickering and blood seeping quickly through two sets of hands pressed hard against an obvious wound on his breast bone. He coughed wetly and closed his eyes.
"No," Aragorn commanded, shaking Hamet and applying more pressure to the wound. "Keep your eyes open."
Behind her, Lainien felt someone approaching, their footsteps quick. The gentle and steady flow that normally carried Déor's thoughts was now an angry flood of righteous fury. At the sight of his friend, eyes closed and pallor rapidly losing all color, the current only quickened with rage.
His voice was gentle, however, when he spoke. "I am sorry, my brother," he whispered, moving around Lainien to approach the pair on the floor. "I failed you," he said, dropping to his knees next to Hamet and brushing back the sweaty hair on the man's brow.
"No," Aragorn repeated, more angrily now. "No, there has to be something more—we have to do something."
"Estel," Lainien whispered, lowering her weapons finally and moving to lay a hand on his shoulder. "Let him go in peace."
Déor watched with sadness etched in every line of his face as Aragorn shook his head and pressed still to the now only sluggishly bleeding wound on Hamet's chest.
With infinite gentleness, Déor reached for Hamet's hand to bring it away from the wound. Aragorn made a weak noise of protest but allowed the captain's hand to break his desperate grip, leaning back to sit on his heels.
Déor reached down and took up Hamet's sword from where it had fallen, still shining with the sickly black blood of his fallen foes. The captain transferred it into Hamet's hands, grasping the dying man's fingers tightly around the hilt.
"Go in peace, my dear friend," he whispered, bringing the hilt to rest gently over the wound at his chest.
Lainien closed her eyes, the grief flowing freely from Déor's mind mixing with Aragorn's to overpower her mental shields. She kept her hand resting gently on her charge's shoulders, wishing more than ever that her ability to hear his pain could somehow reduce it. Together, the three warriors stood guard as Hamet took his last breath.
"Tonight, we remember those who gave their blood to defend our country," Déor pledged, raising the gilded chalice in his hand. His face was uncharacteristically grim, his eyes drawn and dark. "We remember the innocent whose lives we swore to protect."
Every head in the Great Hall of Meduseld bowed in grief, silence heavy with sorrow.
Déor looked up, the spark returning to his eyes as he looked over his gathered men. "Hail the victorious dead," he called, voice booming and proud.
"Hail," the resounding call echoed, the men of the Rohhirum raising their chalices with equal fervor and drinking.
Lainien raised her own drink to her lips, eyes on her companion's still form. Aragorn met her eyes and took a belated sip of his own, his throat working hard to swallow the meager amount of ale.
All around them was a flurry of activity—people bringing long tables and benches, serving-maids delivering food from the great kitchen, soldiers already regaling each other with tales of Hamet and the several other men who had fallen at the hands of the orcs.
"Come, friends," Déor said, his voice devoid of his usual boisterous booming, "let us share in food and ale to break this sorrow and fill ourselves with memories."
Lainien bowed her head and allowed the captain to steer her and her charge to the nearest table. The elf took a seat next to Aragorn and allowed the warm noise to fill her senses, attempting to quell the underlying tenor of melancholy that still clung to the surrounding minds.
"Gram!" Déor called, beckoning for the man to join their quickly filling table. "Tell us of the time you and Hamet were caught by his father trying to sneak into the women's bath!"
Lainien raised her brow at Gram, his normally stony visage gaining a hint of color. "We were but boys," he assured her, clearing his throat. "And were merely trying to—"
"No, come now," Déor said, clapping the man on the shoulder. "Start from the beginning."
Two hours and several drinks later, Aragorn stood against a golden pillar watching the festivities progress. He had long since given up his drink in favor of watching from the sidelines as the men of the Rohirrum drank to their fallen brothers and shared ever more increasingly silly stories.
Lainien was still at the table with Gram, seemingly attentive to the reserved man's tale, but Aragorn could see from her carefully angled position facing him that she was waiting for his cue.
He took a deep breath, the air heavy with the stale sent of drink pressing uncomfortably against his skin.
I'm going to step out, he projected, watching as his guardian's dark blue eyes met his. She raised a brow.
No, I'd like to be alone, he responded to her unasked question. I'll just step outside, he assured her. She blinked once before turning back to Gram.
Aragorn made sure to send over the wordless feelings of gratitude and affection to his guardian before slipping through the side door and out into the hall. The muffling effect of the closed door and clear air were immediate relief to his senses and Aragorn took a deeper breath.
Ten minutes and a scraped knee and elbow brought the young man to his current cross-legged position on the roof of the Great Hall. Freedom, he thought, closing his eyes and relishing in the chilly breeze and towering heights.
The great plains defining the land of Rohan were beautiful in their own right, but he missed the height and protection of trees. Of home, he thought, remembering the comfort of bark against his spine. It's been so long…
He thought back to his first steps away from Imladris, off to begin a quest to become a man worthy of his bloodline. That was six years ago now, and Aragorn didn't feel any closer to his goal.
I am more unsure than when I left, he thought, looking down at his hands and staring at his palms. He had washed away the dried blood of his friend hours ago, but he swore he could still see flickers of it on his palms in the shadows. How can I be a leader when I feel so much sorrow?
He clenched his fists, the anger and shame sitting heavily in his stomach. He couldn't do this.
An inelegant grunt and the scraping of metal against stone alerted Aragorn to an interloper to his melancholy. Aragorn turned to watch tangled golden curls appear over the side of the massive roof, and the young man nearly chuckled as Déor's straining face came into view.
"Hush now," the captain said, glaring at the youth, "I have yet a dozen years and countless battles upon my poor joints than you." With another grunt, Déor pulled his massive frame up onto the roof and took a second on all-fours for a few deep breaths.
With mild grumbling, he made his way over to Aragorn and settled himself down next to the youth, peering over the edge of the roof with apprehension.
"You had to pick the highest hiding spot in the entire realm," he muttered, rubbing his hands together to shield himself from the chilly winds.
Aragorn gave the man a weak grin before turning his eyes to the vast plains spread out before him.
"My home has many trees," he said quietly after a long minute. "Each having lived more years than I." He paused again, looking down at his hands. "Each likely living long after me."
Déor took a deep breath and folded his hands in his lap. Aragorn waited for him to speak, but nothing came. Slowly, the young man closed his eyes.
"How do you do it?" he asked, his voice barely a whisper on the wind. He wasn't exactly sure what he was asking, just that everything was suddenly just so overwhelming.
How do you lay a friend to rest? How do you smile again afterward? How do you continue leading them knowing it might be to their deaths?
"As captain, I must do everything in my power to give aid to my men." Déor spoke quietly but firmly. "This means laying his body to rest with the honor afforded to him." He paused, closing his eyes. "This means speaking with his widow and offering any support she should need." The two sat in prolonged silence, the wind whispering around them.
"This means arranging for food and drink for the survivors to rest their weary souls," he continued, opening his eyes. "But then, when there is nothing left for me to do, when I have done all within my power to achieve," he said, building with energy. Aragorn had turned to him, watching avidly.
"Then, then I must stop." The man let out a deep breath and turned to the youth now gazing quizzically at him. "There is strength in knowing what you can control," he explained, giving the youth a slight smile. "And then letting go what you cannot."
"I cannot bring back Hamet, nor Theden, Etaine, or Gamtring. Nor would they wish for me to wallow in grief. And I must set an example for my men."
Aragorn stared at his clasped hands in silence, mulling over the captain's words.
"And then you just—just go again?" he asked, words failing to describe the misery seeping into his bones at the thought of his friends dying slowly one by one around him. "You can ask them to keep following you? To death?" he asked, turning his gaze to Déor.
He was surprised to find a small smile on the man's face. "Men die, my young friend," he said simply.
"Many too soon, and too painfully," he continued, sobering slightly. "Some, with luck, after a long life and in the arms of a beloved. It will happen, and a good captain must not tarry about over the things he cannot control. Fight as hard as you can, for as long as you can, and when all fails, do all that it is within your power to do, and then let go."
He rested a hand gently on Aragorn's shoulders. "If you don't, the death will haunt you. You cannot let it."
Aragorn gave him a smile before turning out to gaze at the rolling plains before him.
Feel the pain, then let it go.
Lainien's eyes focused as she drifted out of her Waking Sleep, honing in on the niggling of distress breezing through the still night air. She blinked, centering her focus on the swirls of panic stemming from the room down the hall from hers, and listened.
Earlier that evening, she had allowed her charge solitude after his conversation with Déor—preferring to maintain her own cross-legged position on the Great Hall's roof behind the pair as Déor made his frankly alarming descent and back to the celebrations. She had watched silently as Aragorn contemplated the plains below, listening to his ever-swirling mind slowly process.
She now turned to survey the slowly melting wax of the candle she'd left burning. It couldn't have been more than two hours since she watched her charge stand and carefully maneuver off his perch and make his way to his rooms.
Lainien stood up swiftly, willing her quickly accelerating heartbeat to slow. She recognized the undercurrent of haziness that accompanied her charge's nightmares, but instinct drove her to check on him nevertheless.
Sure enough, after ghosting down the hall and opening the door to her charge's room silently, Lainien was met only with the sight of Aragorn tossing and turning in his sleep.
She allowed herself a moment to collect her thoughts and slow her heartrate once more before slipping into the room.
Aragorn's brow was furrowed in his distress, head tossing back and forth across the pillow. Lainien called out to him softly, still an arm's length from the bed.
"Estel," she called again, louder. "Wake up, it is only a dream," she said, slipping back into elvish hoping to soothe him. She moved the rest of the way toward the small bed and sat down next to her charge's hip.
At the next call of his name, Aragorn woke with a start, his hand slipping beneath his pillow and drawing his small boot knife from its hiding place.
Lainien grabbed his wrist easily but did not disarm him. "It was just a dream," she said softly in elvish.
Aragorn blinked a few times before finally focusing on his guardian with his usual sharpness. "My apologies," he mumbled, tugging lightly on the iron hold Lainien had around his wrist. He busied himself returning the dagger to its sheath and under his pillow, avoiding Lainien's eyes for as long as possible.
The elf watched her companion with quiet concern as he settled with his back against the wood headboard. She wasn't sure what she could do for him—she had not the easy words of assurance that her Lady could give on the nights when young Estel had cried out in his sleep. Lady Gilraen had taken her young son onto her lap, petting his hair and speaking softly to the child as Lainien stood by the open balcony. She could make the young boy laugh and smile as she wiped away a few stray tears, all while explaining gently the difference between Estel's nightmare and the real world.
Now, there were no tears, but Lainien was sure that the nightmares her charge faced were very much true reflections of the terror in his waking world. What could she say to soothe away the truth behind the utter destruction and waste that was war? Which words could assuage the fear, the haunting despair, that came from battle?
Lainien didn't know, and her heart ached for her still-young charge as he pulled his legs up to rest his chin atop his knees.
"I thought I was prepared for war," he admitted, his quiet words breaking the silence. "I thought I knew what death was."
Lainien hummed gently, her charge's sorrow an echo of her own.
"No one is ever truly ready to face battle," she said, watching Aragorn as he wrapped his arms around his knees.
"Does it get easier?" he whispered, eyes flickering up to his guardian.
Lainien held his gaze for a long moment, seriously contemplating his question. She set her swords at the foot of the bed before moving up to sit next to her charge, her back pressed against the wood headboard. She leaned over so that their shoulders were just touching.
"I hope it does not," she finally replied, the words slow and hesitant. "If it does," she continued, "it is only because you have lost your belief that all life is sacred, or because you have no one left to lose." She shut her eyes. "Either way, my Estel, I would have failed you."
Silence reigned in the dark room as the two contemplated the future, one recalling the visions of a grizzled fighter descending upon his foes with grim determination, the other attempting to imagine what sort of world would exist where he had nothing left to lose.
Straightening slightly, Aragorn pressed back against the headboard and leaned more fully into his guardian's shoulder.
I'm glad you were there with me, his mind whispered softly to the dark room. I can't do this alone.
"You can," she assured him. "But you won't have to."
Aragorn let out a deep breath and settled more comfortably down into his pillows. "Because you'll be with me," he mumbled, drowsiness overcoming him. "Until the very end."
Lainien blinked away the sudden prickle of tears that traitorously threatened to spill. Unable to speak, she nodded and gently brought her hand up to her charge's head.
Until the very end.
The harsh clang of metal on metal echoed around the Great Hall as Gram tossed the final crooked sword onto the pile of other weapons they had recovered from the orcs.
"My King," Déor started, eyes alight with fire. "These are no mere orc-forged steel," he called, picking up a heavy axe from the small pile. "They are well made and they bear the mark of the Corsairs of Umbar."
The Captain flipped the axe over and indicated to a small golden orb divided in half by a single column. "And these are just a small sample," he continued, gesturing to the pile before him. "Nearly every orc carried with them this advanced weaponry."
Lainien eyed the King with wary eyes. She had personally witnessed the dark savagery of the Southern warriors from Umbar during their last siege of the north. Descendants of the Black Númenóreans, the Corsairs of Umbar were sly, rough, and merciless pirates who proved themselves to be formidable foes in battle.
"Bearing the mark of the land is not dispositive of their involvement," the King finally replied, shifting in his throne. "Especially for such an unprecedented incident—never before have they joined forces with the Orcs."
Déor frowned. "Aye sire, but never before have Orc travelled in such large, coordinated groups to attack our towns. And all bearing the same style of weapons?" The captain tossed the axe back into the pile. "It seems more likely to me that they have been conscripted by another to do their bidding."
The King shifted again, eyes moving from Déor to the few other soldiers in the room, each nodding along with their captain's logic. His eyes rested on Lainien for a moment but withdrew quickly from her piercing stare.
"This is one mere incident," he responded, sitting higher on his throne and crossing his arms over his chest. "There is not enough evidence here to draw any definite conclusions, and I shan't make any decisions without such conclusions."
Déor's frown deepened. "Sire," he said, his voice tight. "The orcs destroyed an entire village, killed many of our people—including our soldiers."
The King refused to meet his captain's eyes. "So what would you have me do? You have no information about where they are, how many more are out there. And worse, you tell me they are backed by a hostile kingdom?"
"We must hunt them down, sir," Déor said, a steely glint in his eye. "We know there will be more, and we cannot wait to let them attack another village before we act!"
"And leave Edoras unprotected?" the King nearly squawked, eyes wide and hands coming to rest on the arms of his throne. "Unthinkable! I can't send off our only protection on a fool's errand when we can't be sure when or where they will strike next!"
"Then you believe there are more, but you are too scared to leave yourself unprotected?" Aragon challenged, fists clenched.
The King spluttered. "That is not what I said."
"It is either that you think this was one incident, not enough to be concerned about," Aragorn reasoned, "or they will come again, but you would rather keep your entire force close to protect you while your people's villages burn. Which is it?"
King Thengel eyed Aragorn shrewdly, disdain curling his lip. "It is neither, young Thorongil of the Rangers. And take care your assumptions of my reasoning; I am a King with power, responsibilities, and experience beyond your reckoning."
Lainien grabbed Aragorn's wrist and breathed out "that's enough" quietly.
But his words had the desired effect. "No, it is neither," the King repeated, leaning back on his throne and eyes sweeping across the room. "I will see to it that a small group of our most experienced men will seek out these foul beasts to eradicate them and find out their treachery—whether they be acting on their own or as hired swords for the Kingdom of Umbar."
Déor's stiffened posture relaxed at the King's proclamation. "Thank you, Sire," he said, bowing his head. "If I may, I suggest that I lead this group myself and, with Thorongil and Lainien's help, we can ride out by the week's end."
"Yes, yes," the King said, waving a hand, looking exhausted with the conversation. "Do as you see fit, but take only those we can spare from protecting the citadel."
I hate him, Aragorn projected, thoughts stormy as they left the great hall to follow Déor.
Lainien hummed in response, brushing her charge's shoulder briefly.
Strapped into her saddle—it's bulk lighter than the others riding with her, who carried heavy tents in preparation for their weeks in the wild—Lainien watched her young charge's back as he galloped ahead of her.
Aragorn had an anxious energy about him, ready to finally set off for their hunt. Lainien recalled the endlessly long days prior in which the King had tarried laboriously over every detail of their plan. Aragorn had stood tense as a bow with his back to the wall, his jaw clenched shut. King Thengel wanted them to return in a mere fortnight, but Déor had to patiently explain how the vast distance they would need to traverse and the lack of certainly in their search would require more time.
But now, over nine days after receiving the King's permission, a small group of Rohirrum riders made their way out of the heavy gates of Edoras to begin the several-month journey in search of their prey.
Aragorn glanced back, seeking out his guardian. A fire burned within his grey eyes, and for just a moment, visions of the future flashed and Lainien could see both her young charge and the rugged and weary man he would grow to be.
For Hamet, he projected, his mind full of determination rather than sadness for the first time since the warrior's passing. For justice. -:- It took the group precious little time to arrive at the edge of the small village—no longer smoking but still laying in waste and devastation after the attack. The search parties had all returned to Edoras the day before they had set out, the number of wounded sparse and the number of dead plenty.
Déor steered his mount away from straying too close to the village, for which Lainien was thankful. Ahead of her, Aragorn's thoughts were a tumultuous wind of grief even this close.
The tall captain dismounted and eyed the ground keenly in search for tracks. Next to him, Aragorn followed suit with a sharp gleam in his eye. I can do this, his thoughts breezed, I was raised to track.
Of that, Lainien had no doubt. She watched her charge expectantly, knowing he would find the trail.
Sure enough, it took Aragorn only minutes to find what he sought. "Here," he called, finally glancing up to find Déor. As the captain joined him, Aragorn met Lainien's eyes.
So it begins.