Disclaimer: The content of Tolkien's books belongs to him and his heirs and, in this case, to New Line Cinema where appropriate. I am respectfully borrowing some of it for the sole purpose of enjoyment. No money is in any way involved.
This was written in response to a challenge posted at the Henneth-Annun Story Archive, to enhance my enjoyment of the film as a lover of the books, while remaining within the movieverse.
As ever it is too long - many months too long - since my last visit. As ever, I ask your forgiveness. And as ever I must leave again too soon. Winter this time, just on the year's turn.
This garden is a peaceful place indeed, but sometimes it seems unsure how best to mark your rest. For you are the only mortal here to lie among immortals, and the elves lie quietly in unmarked graves, more than content that Arda should take their bodies back again. Those they have left behind have no need of marble images to remember them. They hold their faces ever in their memory, fresh and green as this ivy trailing here, now, in its attempt to honour you. Not so for Men. There seems no rhyme or reason to what we remember. Yesterday, as I wandered through our rooms, I found I could not recall the movement of your hands as they spun and wove the cloth that made my shirt. You remember it, the last you ever sewed for me - blue with cunning needlework on the shoulders. But then, when I picked it up to stow it in my pack, I heard your voice quite clearly in my head, chiding me that you had not wasted all that effort only to have it ruined by journeying in the wild. And I knew you had that smile on your face as you spoke - the one that always let me know when you did not expect to be obeyed. And almost I answered you aloud, that if I did not wear it now, there was a good chance I never would.
As a child it might have bothered me that my memory was not as perfect as an elf's. That I was in some way made the lesser by it. But you were never one to stand for 'nonsense' of that kind.
My son, you're a Man not an Elf - unlike but no less worthy. Never let yourself forget it. The gift of perfect memory isn't ours, for we don't need it. Ours is a different gift. One that no Elf can ever understand. I can almost hear the dryness in your voice. Not even Elrond Halfelven.
That, I think, you knew full well to be unfair. But a different gift indeed. Best I clear this litter from the stone, for imperfect image that it is, it is all that I now have.
Few mortals have had such memorials in Imladris, but then, I think, few may have left their mark on Elrond quite as you have done. For you were not one to hide your thoughts behind propriety. I know he sought to offer me such comfort as he could, and for that I am most grateful, but you never did like monuments of any kind, knowing too well the history of our people. Still I think it might amuse you that he chose to show you sitting here so tranquilly. And I remember many times when you were just as calm and beautiful as this.
If it were not for my safety and training, I think you would not have brought us to the sanctuary of this place. For I know you thought it an unhealthy thing to raise a child amid constant reminders of his forefather's failings. To have him hear the elves sing songs of mourning for those that fell three thousand years before. To know their grief is as yet unchanged as their memories of the slain. And later to have him realise that it was his blood that betrayed the trust and friendship of those he had come to love as kin. That had brought dishonour to the line of Elros Tar-Minyatur.
But then there were those ancient songs, of ages long ago, and I know you loved them just as much as I. And sometimes, as a child, when the elven voices sang of the mighty Elf Friends and of Eärendil and Elwing and Elros and our kinship from afar, though as yet I knew nothing of how close our bloodline ran, you looked on thoughtfully, as one of Elrond's household smiled at me, or drew me close, or sat me on his knee. But then, often in the quiet of our rooms, you told me other tales and sang me other songs of the more recent deeds of our own people, both fair and foul. For you knew full well that I must embrace the fate that birth has brought my way and take what pride and joy in it I can. Aye, though Elrond may yet see it otherwise, you showed me well enough my duty to both Elfkind and Dúnedain.
This double shadow that has touched us greatly saddens me, as I know it would do you - for though you had your differences, to say the least, they never threatened the affection and respect that was between you two. On my return this time, I feel a change in him - the darkness seems a little deeper somehow than it was before. Perhaps I should feel no surprise for the future does look very grim. But, maybe, others do not perceive it as readily as I, who have seen it in another that I love.
For as my absences grew longer, and I saw you less and less, did I not see the shadow fall upon you slowly? When the memories of joy long past began to fade, and were stretched too thin to keep alive your hope, I could do nothing but watch helplessly as the loneliness crept over you and bore you away at last. And I cannot help musing, strange though it may seem, whether your loss could have darkened a little this shade that seems to gather around Elrond now. Eleven years have passed, to be sure, but that is as an eyeblink to an elf, long indeed though it seems to me. I know you shared your grief with him, and he with you, and that was a source of comfort to you both. Perhaps with your passing his longing for his wife has grown the worse? Perhaps, for the first time in a while, he has relived the pain of losing one he loved to mortal death? Perhaps it has brought it home to him what the absence of a child can bring? Ah, I do not like to be at odds with him like this! The Valar know I would not bring him any further grief. But as far as duty to our people goes, at least, I believe I have done nought that is not right.
That I did not choose to reveal my lineage, all those years ago in Gondor, seems to him now but another proof of the weaknesses of Men. In his bitterness it seems he has hardened his heart to any other argument. But Boromir's words and actions at the Council have only reinforced what I knew then, that the moment was not right. For in the sword of kings great power resides, and doubtless too, it is my right to wield it should it be reforged, and gladly would I serve my people. But Narsil has a perilous edge indeed. The shards that severed Sauron's bone are still so sharp they draw the blood of any Man who stretches out a careless hand to touch them. Yes, Elrond is correct, I fear my heritage; but I am right to do so. For, in those tales of old, told in the gleam of flickering firelight, it is not merely the power of the Enemy that has laid low my people, North and South, but the greed for power that divides and destroys us from within. I would have none of that.
For I am a Ranger and that is not our way. And though I may look the part of a ragged wanderer, you, lady, were ever careful to teach me the truth of my own worth. We have our heritage, our strength, our skill - but it is all yet hidden. You know too well, no songs are sung in Hobbiton or Bree of those whose bones are left unburied in the Wild. Our oath is to fight silently in the shadows, to protect those who know nothing of our toil. This is the way it must be if we are to play our part, and if others see a disreputable vagabond on the one hand or fear and weakness on the other, then so be it.
And even if I were sure of my welcome in the White City, now would still not be the time to go, for all that Boromir's coming has brought a longing to see it once again. For though Elrond has laid no bond upon me, still I am sworn to Frodo and the quest, even to the ending of my life, and what little hope there is lies in the way of utmost secrecy and stealth - the Ranger's way. Even had I not seen first hand the horror of the Ring's most terrible power I know, beyond all doubt, that it must be kept away from Men. No, now is indeed not the time to think of such things as reforged swords and kingship, even should they win me all the world.
For, now I begin to suspect, that even far away from all open source of power, Isildur's Bane is calling still. Have I not felt it myself? When I was forced to watch in the dark as Frodo suffered, helpless to bring him healing or relief, was I not overcome with a desire to ease him of his burden, to carry, just for a while, that terrible weight of the Ring, to offer my strength to keep it hidden should the urge to reveal himself become too great? To defend him from his enemies? It understood all too well what poison could best worm its way into my will. Should Narsil be reforged, I do not doubt the calling would be stronger and of a different kind. Perhaps, who knows, I may well have the strength in me to resist, but while the doom of Middle-earth hangs but by a thread it seems to me a reckless risk to take. Yet more so when there is no obvious need. Boromir brings no formal plea for help and, for all that happened in the past, I know that Denethor is strong and subtle and devoted to his cause above all else. The defence of Gondor could not be in surer hands. The Rohirrim, too, ever proud and fiercely loyal to their lord, need no urging from a stranger to defend their own. And there are other powers for good at work as well. Aye, best the shards stay still in Imladris, safe in Ohtar's unmoving hands, until the time is right.
But it has never been of any use to try and hide from you my fears, and the chances I will return seem very slim indeed. For even if, by the Valar's grace, we should achieve the quest, should the Ring go into the fire, in the heart of the Enemy's land 'tis certain I will be close at hand, if yet I live, and then there will be no thinking of sword or kingship. Or even of my love.
Ah, I have such a longing for your touch. How can I stand before you now as one who will tear the woman he loves from those who gave her life? Even beyond the ending of the world? From her own mother, cruelly wrenched away from her before her time? From her father and her people to whom she is the most precious gift they have? And, yes, I know what you would say. Much the same as she says to me herself. That the choice is hers alone to make, not mine. But even as I know that to be true, the burden still lies heavy on my heart.
And as the darkness spreads outside the elven lands, my times of refuge here seem more than ever a dream. And therein lies my fear: that, no stranger as she is to grief and pain, she still has chosen without fully knowing what she does. That for all her wisdom and her years, in this she is yet of elven kind alone. That she cannot truly understand what it is to be a mortal and to die. That the different gift is bittersweet indeed and that few escape its darkness in the end, even though, it is said, we may hope for something else beyond. I cannot bear the thought that this is so, yet I do not have the words or skill to make her feel this pain. Valar, surely there is none alive who can! Except perhaps her father, half Edain that he is. Aye, except perhaps for him.
For have I not seen at times the strange bond that can exist with twins? And for him the memory of Elros must still be ever fresh and clear, though it is an unimaginable span of years to a mortal since he passed beyond the boundaries of this world. Could Elrond not have felt through his brother's eyes the sorrow of parting from his elven kin? Could he not have felt the grief for loved ones dead while he still must linger on, even with the hope that they would meet again? Could he not have caught a glimpse of the pain of mortal death itself? Small wonder he would shelter his child from that.
Yet, weak and selfish as I am, I cannot give up this love and hope we share. Though dreamlike it may feel to me at times, when I am in her arms I know them to be warm and real. And though you set my feet upon the way, sometimes it feels the path is very hard to find. In these uncertain times, surely the wariest can be deceived by false lights in the mist? But she remains a fixed point in my life, ever-constant, holding me to what is true. I feel the weight of her jewel now, hanging on its chain around my neck, cold against my skin. And I know it will gleam in the moonlight clear and white and forever as untarnished as on the day that it was made.
I wonder now what you would say of Elrond's kindness? That he wished to preserve for me something of you undimmed? If I could only keep it free of the garden's entangling embrace?
Well, that's Elrond for you, isn't it? I didn't ask him for a memorial but he gave me one all the same. At least now I'll always be looking at my best!
Yes, indeed, Elf that he is, he has caught you in the springtime of your life. Gilraen the Fair, in truth. But that is not as I last saw you, your hair touched by silver and your face aged before its time by the shadow and your grief. Yet that face had still a beauty of its own, even though it hurt me greatly to know of your despair. Aye, that is the face I miss so dearly as I touch this stone, cold and white and unchanged. Elf I may not be, but I still need no memorial to remember you. And it is no matter if my memories are not perfect and unchanged. They will be as I most need them to be at the time.
Dawn breaks with a cold light. The company must gather to depart. There is always so little time. Footsteps approach, quiet but full of purpose. Elrond intends more, I think, than to share with me a few calm moments of remembrance. You know how I long to receive a father's blessing, to part from him free of this shadow on our love. 'Tis likely this is the last time we will have to heal the breach between us.
"Anirne hene beriad i chên în. Ned Imladris nauthant e le beriathar aen." Soft words tinged with sadness hang on the frosty air. "In her heart your mother knew you'd be hunted all your life. That you'd never escape your fate."
Aye so you did, my lady, so you did. And such, I deem, has ever been a parent's hope and grief in any age. But Elrond has no time for such contemplation now. "The skill of the elves can reforge the sword of kings, but only you have the power to wield it."
"I do not want that power. I have never wanted it." The words slip out without thought, but they are true. Outside our Fellowship the old alliances are dead, and did we not watch at the Council in despair, as fear and desire for such power bred nought but bitterness between elf and man - aye and dwarf as well? Our hope lies in another kind of strength, however small it seems.
"You are the last of that bloodline. There is no other." There is a quiet desperation in his voice. Indeed I am no Elf and can never understand how deep his grief must go for the long, slow rape of this Middle-earth he loves. As their time is ending here at last, his is a healer's sorrow. And it is true, I am the last of all the long line of Elendil. The last, faint echo of his brother parted from him forever beneath the sundering sea. How he must yearn to depart knowing there remains even the faintest reflection of Númenor before its fall.
Yet, mortal as I am, I would seek to take from him the single most precious treasure that can still be saved unchanged.
" There is no other."
'Tis all too true, for I have never fathered a child. That is a kind of love I have yet to understand, if it ever be my fate. But never having known that love, felt it in my heart, how can I rightly choose in the face of the arguments to come? Aye, I guess too well what he would have me do.
And what if I told her it was all a dream, told her it was my wish she should pass into the west, would it do more than cause her a passing moment of pain? In truth she has ever read my fears, yet still she stays; out of her love, 'tis true, but also out of hope. Aye, while she still has her hope I deem my words alone would do little to make her leave. But what if she should ever lose that hope? Or Elrond find a way to make her feel a mortal's pain?
Ah, lady, can you show me now my path as you have so clearly in the past? You who knew so much of love for your child and your beloved too? Nay, I fear not. I think you would smile sadly at me but say that such a choice is mine to make alone. Can fading memory be enough to serve me now at need? That you loved your son more than hope itself? That beyond both hope and loss you caught a glimpse of something more? If only this stone could truly speak and let me hear your thoughts, but in this your voice is quiet; still and silent as your grave.
"Anirne hene beriad i chên în. Ned Imladris nauthant e le beriathar aen." - She wanted to protect her child. She thought in Rivendell you would be safe.
Aragorn's and Elrond's dialogue taken directly from FOTR Extended Edition