By Vicki Turner
2nd Place Winner in Teitho Fanfiction Contest
Summary: Aragorn (aka Thorongil) celebrates First Greens in Gondor while elsewhere in Arda, his friends and family celebrate something else.
Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings belongs to JRR Tolkien and not me.
Aragorn stood outside his tent as the sun started to rise in the sky. The wind spoke softly rustling the leaves and Aragorn pulled his cloak tighter . It was still yet winter, but spring was not far off. Snow clung stubbornly to the ground, but there was no denying green would soon replace white. Actually, it already had. Some grass could be seen pushing its way up, as was the norm in Gondor at this time. In fact, it was quite disappointing if there wasn't any grass. What was The First Greens without green?
"A Hopeful First Greens, Captain."
"Hopeful day," Aragorn murmured the customary words unenthused to his second-in-command, Durrin.
"There's eggs and bacon for breakfast. Are you going to join us, Thorongil?" Durrin asked. He had known his captain for some years now and would say that they were friends. It was hard for anyone not to like Thorongil from the North, save Denethor, but there were days when Durrin couldn't begin to understand him. Today was one. First Greens was special for the Gondorain people, especially their soldiers. It was a day of feasting for the hope of spring. At the moment, Gondor was on a campaign against the Haradrim, but today the hardworking soldiers get a day off and extra rations. Everyone was elated, except Thorongil.
"Maybe later, my friend," Aragorn responded. Durrin nodded and took his leave because his captain obviously wanted to be alone. That did not stop the lieutenant from sighing and wondering.
'Another First Greens in Gondor,' Aragorn thought. 'How many more shall I be here?' His duty to Gondor was strong, but on days like this he wished he could be somewhere else. The Army tried to celebrate First Greens so the soldiers could pretend, if just for a while, they were home.
But if anything it made Aragorn more homesick.
It was First Greens, but it was also March 1st.
- - -
It was bitter cold in a forest many leagues away from Gondor. The sun had barely risen and most living beings were still asleep; however, in a small cabin a fire was blazing in the hearth and sounds of cooking could be heard.
An elderly woman tucked a white strand of her hair behind an ear while she worked. She set two places out on the table and hurried to take the tarts out of the oven before they burned. She smiled as the scent of raspberries filled the air. Not because it was her favorite scent, but his.
With the tarts on the table waiting with the apples, toast and even yogurt, she poured two cups of tea before it became cold. She liked hers plain, but made sure to stir honey in the other.
She brought the cups to the table and at last sat down. She unfolded a towel and placed it on her lap. The towel on the other end of the table remained there. The woman bowed her head and began the collective morning prayer. Her voice alone could be heard;
"Iluvatar, Father of all, sacred be thy name. Let thy will be done and keep us safe this day. Blessed be this food we offer to you. May glory be thine forever."
She opened her eyes after the prayer and began to place servings of food on her plate. These were not her favorite foods, but they were his and she always made them for him on this day. The plate opposite of her remained empty.
Picking up her tea, she raised it in toast.
"Happy birthday, Aragorn. May your years be long and blessed," she spoke to the empty chair.
Silently, Gilrean sipped her green tea, wondering when she would be able to eat this meal with her son again.
- - -
"If you will not join in on the celebrations, will you at least drink this tea, Captain?" Durrin offered the warm cup.
Aragorn turned and for the first time that day, smiled at his second's thoughtfulness. He reached for the tea and nodded his thanks. Aragorn did not dimiss Durrin and this time he stayed.
For years, Durrin had watched his captain sulk on First Greens and he, his second-in-command, but an even more important title, friend, had been left to wonder. Not today. Today, his captain would be happy and his own curiosity satisfied. The problem was he couldn't think of a good subtle question to ask. Therefore Durrin decided to go for a direct one.
"Why don't you join the men, Thorongil? Do you not celebrate on the first of March like everyone else?"
Aragorn raised his eyebrows at the soldier and sipped his tea. "This would taste better with honey," he said.
Durrin started. He hadn't expected that response. In fact, he had never thought his Captain would say anything like it. Durrin shook his heading, wondering if he heard Thorongil right. Did his Captain just... complain?
"What?" Durrin asked.
"Tea," Aragorn said, "should always be made with honey on this day, do you not agree?"
Durrin was silent for a moment. "Yes," he said, understanding dawning, "It should be, but the tea is still sweet, is it not?" Durrin realized that his captain's comment meant he was homesick. It shouldn't surprise Durrin, but it did. Almost everyone would talk about their family at least once around a campfire or with a close brother in arms; Thorongil had done neither. It never crossed Durrin's mind that the Captain might miss his own family.
"Bittersweet," Thorongil agreed and Durrin did not know how to reply.
- - -
The sound of the waterfall echoed in the small ravine. Everywhere in the valley sounds of water could be heard, but here was special. Not because of the waterfall, but because of the laughter; the laughter of two identical voices.
The sun hadn't reached its highest peak in the sky yet, but despite this and it being March, the weather was fair in the valley. The water was cold, but not freezing and there was much splashing that day.
Leaves were shaken, boughs bent and bark claimed its share of fabric and the two did not care. It was a time only to have fun, a time only to laugh, play and celebrate life.
But the sun reached its noontime high, and sadly the identical beings had other things to attend to. Before they left though, they scoured the riverbed looking for the rock. It had to be green and it couldn't be round, but it couldn't be sharp. No, because on another day of the year for the past few decades, one of the two would receive a sharp blue rock and the other a round red one. But today, the two had to find the perfect rock; they did.
Soon after, in a vast house the identicals entered a room. The furniture had no dust only because the servants regurarly cleaned it. On a bedside table sat 20 odd shaped green stones. The lopsided grins they had worn all day in his honor were gone replaced by two similar solemn faces. One of the two walked over to the table and set down another green rock.
"Happy Birthday, Estel," Elladan whispered, "'Tis your first green rock of a new decade away, little brother."
"I know I should not criticize you on your birthday Estel, but if you do not come home soon and put these rocks with you others, there's going to be no space on the table!" Elrohir added. "We went to the waterfall again."
"Elrohir pushed me in."
"You tripped!" The younger twin protested.
"Estel, don't believe a word he says; he's lying!"
"I only did it because you pushed me in last year."
"Ah hah! You admit it!"
"Next year, it's your turn Estel," Elrohir said, as he looked the green stones glimmering, representing the years without their younger brother. Suddenly the younger twin felt a strong hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see his father behind him looking at the stones with the same longing pulling at his heart.
"Yes, next year we shall celebrate your birthday together," Elrond agreed, though they all knew that Estel very likely would be away for more years. That in doing his duty, he could very well die; however the elves left that unspoken. It was better just to say,
"Next year, little brother."
"Yes, next year, my son."
- - -
It had taken much cajoling, but Durrin had finally convinced Thorongil to come back to the camp. He had figured out his captain was homesick, but now it was time to make him get over it.
When they returned, Durrin was mortified to see that the men had started playing a classic Gondorian betting game. Gambling was not allowed while on campaign and the lieutenant was afraid instead of making Captain Thorongil joyful, coming back and seeing this would make him angry.
However, Aragorn laughed when he saw his men and their faces. The lucky ones, despite being forty, looked like a child on Yule, while those less fortunate were green as the first grass.
Upon seeing their Captain, the men quickly tried to hide the game to no avail. They needn't have. Aragorn had been thinking. Today was a day for the normal foot soldier, a day for morale. A part of him wanted nothing more than to be gone from this place, but he could not be that selfish and young Durrin was obviously worried. He needed to act joyful for the men.
With a smile barely faked, Aragorn sat down. "By all means, don't stop the game on account of me!" Aragorn exclaimed to the shocked men.
Still slightly dazed at their Captain's acceptance of the game, they slowly retrieved the pieces again. They took out three cups and an odd shaped green stone that sparkled.
"In fact," Aragorn continued eyeing the green rock, "I'm in."
Durrin watched on the sidelines in great amusement. His men were taken completely off guard. Everyone had known Captain Thorongil was a nice guy, but he was a military officer under Ecthelion, meaning he followed the rules. At the moment, he was not following the rules.
"Just don't bet too heavily," Aragorn warned with a mischievous gleem in his eyes, "It may be First Greens, but if you lose your shirt it's still cold, but I have no qualms about taking it!"
- - -
It was hard to find acorns. All the good big ones had been taken before winter. The ones left were very small and survived because of good hiding spaces almost impossible to find. This was quite a depressing fact for the squirrel whose stock had ran out.
The squirrel scurried through the treetops. Its stomach growled, but hope was in sight! An acorn! Salvation at last! The squirrel ran to it.
Out of nowhere, a giant pale claw with five blunt but stiff tentacles came down from the heavens and snatched away the acorn.
"Forty-six," A god like voice boomed. "The last one."
The squirrel looked up and if at all possible glared at the golden haired giant that dared take away its prize. The squirrel knew it was an elf and though he usually liked elves, he was quite upset with this one. It was extremely hungry, but every time today he saw an acorn, this thing would take it.
The squirrel chattered angrily but the elf turned and left and did not heed him. Eventually, the squirrel gave up and continued its quest for acorns.
The golden haired elf put the acorn in the velvet pouch hanging from his belt. It was full. 'Next year,' he thought, 'I'm going to have to get a bigger bag.'
He made one last sweep of the area. Though he had been searching for acorns, his main focus had remained vigilantly looking for the shadow.
The area was secure.
With the grace of all elves, he moved through the trees, back to the base camp. His report to the Captain would be short and this afternoon would see little action. The elf felt the full pouch of acorns again and knew that though there would be no fighting, it would not be a dull day.
In little time the elf arrived at the patrol's base camp. He was greeted by his comrades as he made his way to the Captain who was fletching arrows. The Captain looked up upon hearing his approach.
"Report," The Captain ordered.
"All is quiet. I could find no orc signs in any direction. It seems Sauron's minions are hiding in their caves after our last attack."
"At least some good came out of that attack. We paid for it dearly."
The elf nodded sadly.
"You're dismissed," The Captain said.
With a fist over his heart, the elf bowed in a formal salute and started to walk away. He went about five feet when he turned around and called, "Captain?"
Immediately an acorn was flying through the air and hit the Captain's head as intended.
"Valar, Thranduilion!" The Captain raged. Legolas just laughed and quickly scampered up the nearest tree in retreat.
"Happy Birthday, Strider," Legolas whispered as he slunk hidden in the leaves of trees, hurling acorns at unsuspecting patrol members. The ones who had been on the Prince's patrol last year had been sure to be on scouting duty today.
"I must admit," Legolas said quietly, "when you came up with this idea thirty years ago, I thought you were crazy-"
"now, I see you are brilliant.-"
"Another acorn with every year-"
"so the fun continues to grow-"
"I do wish you were here, though, Strider. It's more fun with the two of us-"
"But in a way you are here-"
"You're the only one who could make this dignified prince throw acorns at people like a mere elfling-"
"But be careful Strider, you are a disaster waiting to happen and I'm enjoying this too much to stop my count at-"
"And many more to come!"
THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD
- - -
Aragorn's eyebrows furrowed as he studied the map. He had dismissed the scout and now was mulling over the new information. Glaring red dots jumped out from the map, too close to the blue ones in his opinion.
"Captain?" Durrin asked softly, looking over Thorongil's shoulder. "Should we ready the men?"
Aragorn shook his head. "They too far for us to attack now, but close enough that they could attack us by nightfall."
"Increase the watch then?"
"Of course and we should probably increase it early, but today is First Greens, and you know how the men are..." Aragorn leaned back in his chair.
"The men will do anything asked of them, Captain."
"That I have no doubt, but it is a pity that we must do so on a day of celebrations. Nevertheless, it must be done," Aragorn stood from his chair and walked over to the other side of the tent. "Lieutenant, have a messenger ride for Denethor's encampment across the river. The Hariadim are as close if not closer to him then us. I am confident he already knows this, but it is best to be sure."
"We will need to increase the watch earlier tonight, but not yet. If they started traveling right after the scout gained this information, then they still will not get here until four, five hours. Begin preparations before then."
"But make sure the men have some time to relax."
"Of course, Captain."
"Do you ever get tired of calling me Captain?"
"No, Captain," Durrin smiled, "At least not while on duty, Captain."
"You could say sir," Aragorn reminded, "and that would still be acceptable."
"I prefer captain, Captain."
Aragorn's exasperated sigh was belied by his smile. He opened the tent flap and said, "Don't you have messengers to send, Lieutenant?"
"Right away, Captain," Durrin said with a bow and proceeded to exit the tent. Aragorn followed.
Aragorn walked away from the tent's shadow and closed his eyes. He basked in the sun's rays and breathed in the crisp air. The weather was kind this March first and Aragorn was enjoying it. Or at least trying. Part of him could not help but wish he were some place a little colder.
Aragorn shook his head. He was here, in Gondor, not the North. His name was Thorongil, not Aragorn, Estel or even Strider. March first was First Greens and not... not his birthday. There were celebrations, but it was not the same.
Well, birthday, holiday or whatnot, the Captain of Gondor had more work and Aragorn turned to re-enter the tent. His foot stepped on something small and unusually shaped. Aragorn bent down to see a little acorn in the mud. A smile spread across his face as he picked it up. Fingering it mischievously, Aragorn looked for his second in command.
Durrin was nearing his own tent. He would need to call in Gunther, the fastest messenger and then start preparing the increased watch. Should he add ten more men or fifteen? Or did he need to add twenty? It would be better to error on the safe side, Durrin decided.
"Lieutenant!" Thorongil yelled.
"Yes, Captain?" Durrin turned. Out of nowhere, something crashed into the side of his skull.
"Ow!" Durrin yelped rubbing the spot of impact. He glared at the offending acorn on the ground and then his Captain, grinning in a way that could only be described as wicked.
"You're insane, Thorongil!" Durrin yelled.
"A Hopeful First Greens, Durrin, my friend!" Aragorn responded.
"Hopeful day, you nut!" His second-in-command muttered continuing to rub his head.
Aragorn chuckled and stepped back inside the tent. Walking over to the table, he frowned staring at the map once more. The red markers were making his stomach flop and his head pound. There was a threat to his men and to Gondor, but it was impossible for him to counter it properly. Aragorn sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
"Hopeful day, indeed."
- - -
The stars slowly emerged in vast expanse above. Crickets along the riverbed begun their evening song. The long grass swayed in the night breeze while bare feet tread their nightly path.
She sung softly while looking across the river and across the forest borders. The beautiful voice rippled across the water with a melody sad yet hopeful still.
"Walking by starlight
'Round the river's bed
Here I stand awaiting
For thy dearest love
Waiting until morn
Waiting until dusk
I'll wait past summer's harvest
And then past winter's least..."
Her voice faded, leaving the song unfinished. Another year of his life had passed. Although Numenorean, his days were still numbered, and continued to filter by. She wished she could be by his side, yet she was not.
Alas, her father had set a price to her hand as lofty as Luthien was for Beren. To claim a kingship was harder than proclaiming your name. Turning citizens hearts towards you and convincing the ruling nobility that your leadership is better than theirs is a daunting task, but she knew her love could do it. Yes, he would do it.
It would take time though. Time he did not have as the shadow increased and likewise his duty. Today was a day that marked the passing of that time.
Usually it was celebrated. She hoped he was celebrating it; she had tried. While the sun shone she had danced under the golden canopy as if he was watching. She had sung like the first time they met. She had laughed like she was talking to him again. All of it wasn't the same. It made her heart ache in away she had never known. Hopefully, her love was enjoying himself wherever he may be.
"May your next year be blessed, Elessar, and may you return swiftly," Arwen whispered to the wind as unbidden tears ran down her face; however, she determinedly raised her voice again.
"Long may be thy wait
But 'tis not in vain
Someday we'll be together
For now, my love, we wait"
- - -
"There's a pretty little lady in tavern somewhere
She smiles so bright and gives me free ale
A face so beautiful with the body to match
Ho ho oh, what a lucky catch!"
Laughter mixed with the crackling of a fire as night fell in the lands of Gondor. Men sung songs softly, incase of an attack, but would sometimes forget themselves and belt out their favorite melodies. Durrin did not mind. He had sat a sufficient watch and they would know about intruders long before the sound of their voices became a problem.
More men joined in on the chorus:
"La la la la!
Love is sweet
Da da da da!
But beer is better!
La La da!
La la da!
La la la da lee!"
Durrin found himself humming along.
"Once I saw a maiden awalking..."
Another verse was started and Durrin dismissed himself as he saw a shadow across camp. Stretching his stiff legs, Durrin weaved his way over managing only to trip over two bags, five rocks and just one person in the dark.
Durrin stopped up short as a soft rough whisper reached his ears. A melody tinted with sadness and sorrow.
"…Here I stand awaiting
For thy dearest loveWaiting until morn
Waiting until dusk
I'll wait past summer's harvest
And then past winter's least..."
"Thorongil?" Durrin asked.
The singing stopped and silence reigned for a few moments.
"Do you need something, Lieutenant?" Thorongil's voice was gruff and reproachful. Durrin immediately regretted speaking. He should have just left his Captain alone, but no, he was too curious for his own good.
"Captain, I-ah-um... "Durrin stuttered, "Please forgive my intrusion. I'll leave now." Durrin hastily bowed and retreated.
"No, stay," Thorongil called to his second, "There is no need to leave; you did nothing wrong. Forgive me for my anger is misplaced."
"Where should your temper be directed then, Captain?" Durrin asked returning to Thorongil's side.
"The Haradrim, Sauron, orcs..."
"Denethor?" Durrin offered.
Thorongil laughed under his breath. "You said it, not I. But no, Denethor is a very noble man, Durrin. Stubborn, but dedicated to the well being of Gondor even if I do not always agree with him. You would do well to remember that he is also Captain Denethor and will be your Steward one day, Lieutenant."
"Understood, but I don't think you'll report me for disrespect to Captain Denethor, will you, Captain Thorongil?" Durrin asked with a boyish grin.
"You young scamp."
"Surely, not much younger than you, Captain."
Aragorn ignored the comment with a dignified snort. The man had no way of knowing his true age. He did look no older than twenty-five, even though he was forty-five, no, six. Aragorn's light-hearted mood left as swift as it came.
"What's wrong, Thorongil?"
"Captain...?" Durrin pressed not believing it.
"I'm fine, Durrin, truly." Aragorn unsuccessfully once again tried to convince the Lieutenant.
"You certainly are not fine, Thorongil. You never are on First Greens, yet I left you alone to your hidden musing in your melancholy state for the past years, but not today. Please, share you thoughts with me. It'll ease your heart."
"I enjoyed myself immensely today," Thorongil pointed out.
"Yes, but something was wrong. No, something other than the Haradrim," Durrin cut off Thorongil's protest before it was even spoken, "Your joy was missing something. You were missing something. Being homesick is nothing to be ashamed of, Thorongil."
Aragorn came up short and could do nothing, but nod. He knew that. Often he had told young soldiers that they should remember their families and loved ones, but let the memory give them hope and happiness not grief. Why was it so hard to follow his own advice?
"Is First Greens special for your family?" Durrin asked. "Do you even celebrate it up north?"
Aragorn smiled slightly, "In a way First Greens is very dear to me, but we do not celebrate the holiday in my land. There the ground is white for many weeks yet."
Durrin nodded and the two friends were silent for several moments. Surprisingly it was Aragorn who broke it.
"You have a wife, Durrin." It was not a question.
"Yes," Durrin affirmed with whimsical smile, "You were at the wedding last spring."
"Be thankful for her. Do not take your marriage for granted."
"I do not take anything for granted, but is there a reason you say such things, Thorongil?" Durrin asked and his tone portrayed the huge smile hidden in the dark. "What fair lady has captured your eye, Captain?"
Aragorn was not sure if he wanted to respond, but did so anyways. "One that I must wait for, for a very long time."
"Is that who you were singing of?"
"I interrupted before you finished the song..."
Aragorn laughed, "You're not getting a performance, Durrin, so don't even try."
Durrin pretended to pout. "But Captain..." He whined.
Commotion at the other side other the camp abruptly ended the young lieutenant's theatrics. Durrin's mind set immediately switched back to military as he observed the situation. A single scout had entered camp and his news had sent the neighboring men into motion.
"It seems the Haradrim will be visiting soon," Durrin concluded.
"How rude of them to call so late. Have they no manners at all?" Aragorn said with a half smirk, "Find the scout and bring him to my tent. Tell Lieutenant Gahelad to start organizing preparations and I will send a squire to start setting out your amour for you. Hopefully, their surprise attack should hold some different surprises."
"It should; it is a hopeful day, you know." Durrin said, saluting.
"Indeed it is," Aragorn agreed. "It's my birthday, after all."