Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.


It was the darkest part of the night despite the racket that seemed to fill every inch of the valley. A lone figure stood in the passage, leaning heavily against the wall. It had been a desperately long night and he needed a moment to calm himself, to steel himself for the final battle.

He realized with a start that his hands were shaking and he stifled a groan of shame. What right had he to fear? He was a Dunedain, a Ranger who's nerves were hardened by an even harder life. He rubbed his face with his hands, if this night did not kill him it would be a miracle.

"Arathorn, if you do not come in here now you will miss your firstborn greeting the world." The elf maid stuck her head through the door with a wiry smile. He drew in a shaky breath and she frowned at him, laying a hand on his arm.

"Gilraen is doing well," she said soothingly, as if to punctuate her words a woman's painful cry came from the room and they both turned at the sound. The elf maiden smiled giving his arm a squeeze.

"I have assisted father in many births." she said "Gilraen is doing well, 'twill be over soon. Your child should see both his parents, it will bring him strength of soul."

"I cannot do it Arwen." he whispered, trembling "I did not know she would be in so much pain. She is still so young, so fragile." Arwen gave a laugh.

"Young yes," she teased, looking on the slightly graying human with piercing eyes "As are you, young one. But Gilraen is strong, all will be well. Come hold her hand and give her strength." she held out her hand to him and he allowed her to lead him back into the room where his wife gave birth to their child.

Gilraen lay on the bed, drenched in sweat, her eyes closed as she panted, her honey brown hair splayed out over the pillows. So beautiful. He had never seen Elrond tired and disheveled before but the Elf Lord was a picture of exhaustion as he brushed a hand over Gilraen's forehead. He had shed his tunic and rolled up his sleeves and at the moment he looked far more like a midwife than one of the Eldar.

"It is nearly time," he said in a low voice, motioning Arathorn closer. the man dropped to his knees beside his wife, taking her hand in his and brushing a kiss over her forehead. He would be strong for Gilraen, he had to be, he would not fail her now. Her eyes fluttered open, glazed with pain and as she struggled to focus on him he smoothed back her hair. "Soon." he soothed. She drew in a ragged breath, clutching his hand.

"I love you." she only barely whispered. The words sent a thrill through his heart and he covered her lips in a tender kiss.

"Hold on my love." he whispered, "I am here."

It was over so quickly he barely had time to register what was happening.

A groan of pain.

A sharp word from Elrond.

Gilraen's fingers gripping his own.

And then a baby's soft cry filled the air.

"My Lady, your son." Arwen said with a bright smile, laying the child in his mother's arms. Gilraen let out a happy laugh, tears streaming down her face as she gazed down at the wide eyed bundle. Arathorn drew his arms around her tightly and she laid her head on his shoulder.

"I am so proud of you." he whispered tenderly. He could feel the energy drain from her. He nodded to Arwen and the elf maid took the babe as he gently laid his wife back on the bed. "Rest a moment." he whispered and she gave a slight nod. Arathorn stood to his feet and turned to the Lady with a smile. Arwen held the babe, rocking him gently as she cleaned him.

"He is beautiful." she smiled, "What shall you call him?"

"Gilraen had decided on Aragorn." he replied ruefully. Arwen gave the child a soft kiss on the forehead, smiling down at him.

"Mae Govannen, Hir Aragorn, estel o adanath" (1)

1. Well met, Lord Aragorn. hope of men