Epilogue – A Son Of Two Fathers

Elrohir took a sip of wine and stretched before the fire. It felt good to be home, but there had been little time to relax since their return and the day had been a momentous one – especially for Estel.

Estel – no, Aragorn – dropped into another chair, draining his own wine in a single gulp. He still looked stunned. "Aragorn, son of Arathorn," he repeated to himself softly, savouring it. He shook his head and regarded Elladan and Elrohir with incredulity. "I still cannot believe it."

"But you will always be Estel," Elrohir reassured him. "Still our brother."

Elladan nodded. "Aye. Aragorn, son of Arathorn – and Estel, son of Elrond." He smiled. "There are few who can claim two names. You have earned them both, and I know you will live up to them."

Aragorn looked down, twisting the ring that newly adorned his finger. "I wish I could have known him – my other father, I mean. Arathorn."

"I wish you could have known him too – and I wish he could see you now," Elrohir said softly. "He would have been so proud of you, and everything you did in Moria."

"What – even getting lost and going off after those orcs?"

Elladan grinned. "He could be impetuous too. And it worked out for the best – you prevented them raising the alarm."

Elrohir raised his goblet in salute to Est – Aragorn. "And for digging me out of that rock fall in Moria. You have my thanks, little brother."

Elladan nodded sombrely. "You saved his life – and for that you have my thanks!"

Estel grinned. "What was I to do – leave you for the orcs?"

Elrohir frowned suddenly. "Yes, the orcs. I have strange half-memories of them there. I thought it must be a nightmare, but it seems too real for that – a nightmare would have faded by now, but this is still vivid."

He missed the look that Elladan and Aragorn exchanged. "What do you remember?" Aragorn asked.

Elrohir frowned again as he tried to recall events. "I think – I woke up, I think, while I was still trapped under the rocks. I can remember pain and dizziness and confusion. I am not sure – nothing was clear. I may have imagined it, but it seemed very real. Orcs were coming. I could hear their feet tramping, their harsh voices coming nearer and nearer." His voice dropped. "I could smell them. You were there, Estel, and I tried to warn you. And then –" Elrohir broke off, and shook his head. "No, that part must have been a dream, or rather a nightmare."

He paused. "There were orcs," he continued in a whisper. "I could feel their hands on me, holding me down. They were smothering and choking me." He shuddered at the memory, and hesitated before continuing. "There was a sickly stench and the foul taste of their hands over my mouth … and I have never felt such terror or utter helplessness. I knew I was a prisoner in their hands." He fell silent, remembering again the horror of the moment.

"I think I lost consciousness. When I came to my senses they were gone. You were there, Estel, and I was safe." He sighed, shaking his head. "It makes no sense. If orcs had seized me like that, I would not be here now. And yet I cannot forget it. I have woken at night two or three times since then in a blind panic, remembering." He shrugged. "It is nonsense, I know. Yet it felt so real."

Aragorn was staring at him with a stricken expression. "Elrohir, I'm sorry!" he exclaimed.

"Sorry? Why? You are not to blame for my nightmares, little brother. You dug me out."

"No, but … " Aragorn swallowed. "It was me," he whispered. "It was me. You were right – there were orcs coming. You were moaning, and trying to warn me to run – you wanted me to leave you there and save myself! They would have heard you, so I did the only thing I could think of. I had some of that paste we use to calm nervous horses, so I put a little in my hand and held it to your mouth and nose so you had to breathe it in. It was the only way I could think of to keep you quiet!"

Elrohir stared at him, lost for words. He did not know whether to be relieved at his narrow escape, indignant at his undignified treatment at Est – Aragorn's – hands, or proud of his brother's courage, resourcefulness and swift action. Regrettably, indignation won. "Horse tranquiliser?" he asked at last. "You drugged me with horse tranquiliser?"

"Be fair, little brother – he had no choice!" Elladan pointed out.

Elrohir transferred his glare to his twin. "You knew about this?" he demanded.

"Estel told me later. It was unorthodox, but it worked. And if the orcs had found you …" Elladan's voice trailed off. "Well, thanks to Estel they did not." He gave a sudden grin, breaking the tension. "I always said you smell like an orc at times, Estel – now I am proved right!"

"Elrohir, I am so sorry," Aragorn said again, ignoring Elladan. "I had no idea you remembered any of it. No wonder it gave you nightmares! And then, when the orc stepped on you …"

"What?" Elrohir and Elladan demanded together.

Aragorn stared at his brothers, his eyes widening. "Oh – I never told you about that part, did I?"

"I do not think I want to know," Elrohir said flatly with a faint shudder. "Thank you – I think." He shook his head, but then leaned forward to ruffle Aragorn's hair. "You have done great deeds, little brother. Perhaps one day you will be as famous as Beren!"

Elladan laughed. "If he is Beren, then who is Huan?"

"More to the point, who is Lúthien?" Aragorn asked lightly. He stood and stretched, glancing at the long shadows that lay outside. "I am going for a walk before supper – it is a beautiful evening. I will see you later."

Singing softly to himself, Aragorn stepped out onto the terrace and went down into the gardens.

'At the hour of sunset Aragorn walked alone in the woods, and his heart was high within him.' (LOTR, Appendix A, The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen)

The End