First up, an apology:

I'm sorry that I took so long to complete this story. Everything worked against me to prevent me from finishing chapter two—my time, my health, and even my computer. I was on the last few paragraphs when I tried to save the document, but the save failed. I later found out the folder itself was corrupted, which was why I had so much trouble. (Now, I've taken to copying what I've written so far before saving. Annoying, but it works.) I had to rewrite the chapter amidst a headache and a cold, combined with plenty of tissues. The muses abandoned me during the holidays, and I felt like I was pushing myself to write—the story didn't seem as good as when I had inspiration. So I waited until I was back in the mood before picking this up once again. I will admit it was a case of writer's block, and I've kicking away at it to the best of my abilities.

Then, I had to pack…and clear a few things up before my departure. Packing at times is fun, but it was an annoyance at that moment. There are times when I was ready to bang my head against the table in frustration and scream bloody murder. December this year wasn't exactly the best for me.

I had meant to finish this before leaving...but things did not work out that way.

When I finally was able to settle down and write, my laptop decided it was a good time to die...I feared a virus, but it only turned out that the problem was the laptop itself (apparently the motherboard was faulty). Thus I now type on my father's 6-by-9 laptop, which is terribly cramped... -sigh- Technology hates me.

I had hoped to upload this earlier, but poor Internet connection stopped me.

Chapter Two is finally completed and here for you to read. :)

TO MY FELLOW EACIANS: Kill me if you wish because of my delaying:) Thanks go to Oxpecker, Starlight9, Kalisona, ArodieltheElfofRohan, Fair Rider, Sivan Shemesh, and all other EACians for their patience. I'm very apt at procrastinating, I fear.

A/N: Thanks for Starlight9 for pointing out a few errors. I appreciate it. :)


Chapter Two

Take my hand,

Lead me on,

Help me stand;

I am tired,

I am weak,

I am worn;

-

Thru the storm,

Thru the night,

Lead me on to the light,

Take my hand,

Lead me home.

---

When my way grows drear,

Linger near;

When my life is almost gone,

-

Hear my cry,

Hear my call,

Hold my hand lest I fall;

Take my hand,

Lead me home.

Elrond's head snapped up, eyes searching the room. He could swear he had just heard something move. Rising from his seat, he heard it again. The sound of low voices in the hallway reached his ears, and he stepped out, knowing very well to whom the voices belonged to.

"They are all asleep. Even Ada."

"And what if he awakes and finds us gone?"

"He then knows we went after Estel."

"Adar will not be happy when he finds out."

"No, I will not be happy." Elrond easily hid his smile when both of his sons half-jumped when they heard him. He was relieved, though that Elladan did not drop the lighted lantern he was holding.

"We can not just sit here, waiting," Elladan began.

"I know," Elrond replied. "That is why I plan to go with the two of you." This time, he could not help but smile when his son gaped at him. "Now, if the two of you would wait for me…" He turned to go up the stairs.

Elrohir glanced at his brother, who merely shrugged. "If Ada wants to come, he can do so."

Elrond stepped out of his room, adjusting the clasp of his dark cloak. As he reached the stairs, a soft voice stopped. "Elrond."

He turned. "Gilraen?" He had thought her asleep by now.

The lady stood in the doorway of her room, holding a candle between her hands. The light flickered, but was sufficient enough to show her drawn, worried face. "You are going out to seek for him?"

"Aye," He gave her a reassuring smile. "It will be well."

"Just bring him home, Elrond," she whispered, echoing the exact words Elrond had only a few hours ago. "Bring him home."

"We will, my lady." He rested his hand on her shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "This I promise to you." With that, he left with his sons, going out into the storm of the night. All three of both pulled their hoods up. Elrond slowly breathed out, watching his breath come out in a puff of white.

"Should we take the horses?" Elladan inquired.

"The storm may frighten them, though." Elrohir tugged at his cloak. "Ugh, I already feel drenched."

"You sound as bad as Estel."

"I can understand why—the sensation of being wet is not nice." Elrohir muttered. "Ada?" He looked at the elder peredhel in question.

Their father was silent for a moment. "I agree with you, Elrohir." He finally said. "We will walk."

:-:-:-:-:-:-:

Aragorn wiped his face with his fingers. Water mixed with blood ran down his palm. Where had the latter come from? Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he vaguely remembered a tree branch catching across his forehead when he was still running. At least my eyes were spared, he thought wearily. At least it is only a small scratch, really.

He kept his eyes on the ground, trying to avoid falling on his face. He was failing rather miserably. The man tripped over something and caught himself just in time. A wave of dizziness assaulted him, and he stumbled sideways, falling against the trunk of a tree with a stifled cry of pain. Aragorn blinked; an effort to clear his vision. He pressed a hand to his head, a soft moan escaping his lips.

Perhaps he had the will to go on, but his body was not as inclined to listen to his mind. Every one of his injuries, from the broken arm to his ribs to the pain building his head, were clamoring for his attention—attention he could not give at the moment. The man pushed himself away from the tree and resumed walking. Was he even going in the right direction? Without the guidance of the stars, he was lost in this rain, stumbling blindly in the darkness.

A coughing fit suddenly seized him. Helpless, he sank to the ground, his good arm pressed against his ribs. His eyes were squeezed shut as he endeavored to cope with the flaring pain. Valar, it hurt so much!

After several agonizing seconds, he could finally draw air again. Breathing in a somewhat ragged cadence, he rested on his hands and knees for a moment. Grey eyes looked dully at the mud and dirt below, not really seeing any of it.

How long before his vigor gave way? Before his endurance finally snapped? Before his grasp on hope failed and he despaired?

Dirt-crusted fingers scraped against earth as he tried to stand. Perhaps in a few hours he would no longer be able to go one, but no ever would he abandon hope. He would live to see his home again. His eyes shone with a light as he pushed himself up and once again up on his feet. No doubt could overcome his will to return.

But if only…he did not feel so alone on this journey. Aragorn wished he was in the safety of Imladris at this moment, instead of feeling bewildered and afraid. Yes, afraid. Afraid that he would disappoint his family if he did not return soon. He knew they must be worried.

Crossing his arms, he trudged on, his thoughts ever straying toward his home.

:-:-:-:-:-:-:

Elladan stepped into a particularly deep puddle. With a muttered curse he pulled his boot out, spraying the water about him.

"Was that really necessary, Elladan?" Elrond softly questioned.

"I suppose not," his eldest son reluctantly replied. His father always had a way of making him feel younger than he truly was.

"You should hear him when you are not around." Elrohir commented, ignoring the look Elladan was giving him.

"Gwarth," the twin said under his breath. "You are always supposed to agree with me, not side with Ada."

"Maybe, but Estel picks it up from you." The other nonchalantly answered. "That is why Ada dislikes it so much." He blew a wet strand of hair off his face, wrinkling his nose as he did. There were only a few things on Arda that sincerely annoyed him. One was the Orcs, and another was walking in the rain and getting drenched. However did humans survive this, he would never know. "At least you do not corrupt him." he added as an afterthought.

Peeved, his brother replied shortly, "Of course I do not. I teach him and protect him."

"Estel says you mother him."

"He is wrong in saying that."

"I beg to differ. You really do fuss over him." Elrohir gave his twin an apologetic look. "You fuss over everyone." He moved away, expecting the other to retaliate.

But Elladan did not laugh, or retort. Instead, he looked troubled. "Brother, the reason I worry about him so often is because in the past, I have already failed so many time to save those that I love."

"Elladan—"

"Avo pedo ha, muindor." he interrupted, his grey eyes troubled. "I know what you will say. You will tell me that it was none of my fault." He looked away. "But it is. And I cannot—" His fist tightened on the lantern he held. "—bear the thought of him, of Estel, lost out here in this Valar-forsaken weather, all by himself. What if he already—"

"Daro." Elrond's voice was quiet but commanding. His gaze searched for his son's eyes. "Iôn nîn, your brother is right in assuring you it was not your doing."

Elladan did not answer; he had heard this before from nearly everyone—his father, Elrohir, Erestor, Glorfindel, and even from his mother before she sailed…

The elder half-elf knew what his son was thinking. How could he not? He was a father and husband, and knew the pain of losing loved ones and of keeping lonely vigils in the night. "You cannot always shelter him," he said quietly, "For his time will come, and he must walk a road where we cannot follow."

His son looked away. That was it, the one thing he had always loathed. Aragorn would always be Estel to him, that careless, foolish child who was more endearing than any of the other heirs of Isildur he had met. Estel, with his youthful ways and a personality that made it hard for anyone not to like him. But never was he Aragorn, Heir of Isildur. Not yet…

"Elladan?"

"He is not ready." Elladan gritted his teeth, keeping his eyes on the road ahead of them.

"Then when will he be?" Elrond asked. "He does not have the long life of the Eldar."

"I know that, Adar!" The other finally turned to look at his father, eyes glittering from the faint lantern light. "I have known it for a long time now, and I also know that you are right. But—" his voice trailed off. "I think he will never be ready. A part of me wishes…that day will never come."

A sigh. "Every time he comes back to us, with those injuries of his, I take one look at his eyes, so full of pain and fear, and then I cannot let him go out again on his own." Elladan finished. His gaze sought his father's. "Why did you let him go so soon?"

Elrond smiled a little. "Because now is the time. He is ready, and willing to take upon the duties of a ranger of the North." He paused for a moment to let the words hang in the misty air. "You say that we cannot always protect him, and that is true." He continued, directing his last statement to Elladan, eyes piercing. "But we will be there for him when he comes home."

The elder twin slowly nodded. "I understand," he replied, voice soft and filled with heartache. "But that does not ease my worry for him." He turned his face upward, letting the droplets of rain roll down his face. I will find you, gwador.

:-:-:-:-:-:-:

"Gil-galad né Eldaran, hó së nyellor lindar nairavë…"

Aragorn softly said the words, almost distractedly as he continued to trudge. At least, he was trying his best in trying to recite a lay. Because his throat hurt too much for singing, this was the only way he could think to keep his mind off the sound of the incessant rain. But his mind was dull, and it took him some time to get just the first line right. He sighed softly to himself, frowning.

"…I tell i Arda né vanima ar ranya, Orontillor…" he paused, "Orontillor Eärenna…" He paused, trying to remember. "Macilerya né anda ar ehtirya laica; Cassarya calima cenna oarello…" He stumbled, nearly crashing into a tree. With a muttered curse, Aragorn regained his footing as he himself against the rough bark of the trunk. Rubbing the back of his neck with a hand that felt as if it were made of ice, he glanced almost despairingly about his surroundings.

Suddenly, he blinked. Was that a light he saw in the distance? As best he could, the man squinted, trying to focus on the blurry image in front of him. The light was not stationery, but swung from side to side in a gentle motion. He still could not see who was holding the light, though. Aragorn pushed himself off, staggering and weaving through the trees as he headed for the bright glow. As he drew nearer, he could make out three figures, but was only able to see the face of one. Yet it was one he knew dearly well. "El?" he whispered, a look of amazement and surprise entering his face.

"Estel?" The half-elf pushed the hood away from his face as he nearly dropped the lantern. He began running towards the man, who had stopped.

Aragorn felt numb with relief as he slowly exhaled, sinking to the ground. Elladan was there before he fell over with exhaustion. The man blinked up at his brother. "…should be at home, Ell'dan," he slurred.

"As should you," Elrohir replied, kneeling down next to the two of them. "What delayed you this time, brother?"

"Orcs…" Aragorn briefly closed his eyes, only opening them again when he felt a cool hand rest against his forehead. "Ada?"

"Aye, Estel. I am here."

"Good." With a small smile, he let himself slip into unconsciousness.

"Estel?" Elladan tightened his grip, bending close, ready to wake him.

"No, let him rest for now," Elrond looked up at the sky. "I can do nothing in such wet conditions, and it will be easier to take him back like this." He took Aragorn from his eldest. "His injuries are not so bad that they are life-threatening, but they will keep him off his feet for a few weeks." The elf lord glanced up at the sky. "The sooner we get home that better."

"Wait a moment." Elladan shrugged his cloak off and covered his brother well. His face was grim. "All right, let us leave."

Elrond stood to his feet, and they began the walk back home. He blew a wet strand of hair off his cheek, bending forward slightly under Aragorn's weight as he glanced down at his son. A little while longer, penneth.

:-:-:-:-:-:-:

Gilraen had left her room, wandering down into the room that Elrond had occupied only some time ago. Her arms were crossed; her hands formed into fists as she bit her lip and paced. She frequently glanced out the large windows of the room, eyes wide and filled with anxiety.

About two hours had passed since Elrond and his sons had left. Two agonizingly long hours. If she had to wait another hour, perhaps she would go out. She let out a soft sigh. Her son never seemed to grasp the importance of time. As a child, he was always late to meals and sessions with his tutor. The only time he was not late was when he was in weapons' training.

She shook her head, knowing that Aragorn was not delaying on purpose this time. He knew how she would fret, and rightfully so. For what mother would not be concerned about the wellbeing of her children? Until the day she died, she would always worry about her son.

The woman chanced a glance out of the window. Seeing two lights bobbing in the gloom of night, her breathing quickened. They were back, and hopefully, with Aragorn. Snatching up the candle she had brought with her from her bedroom, Gilraen left the confines of the room and headed for the main entryway of Rivendell.

The doors were opened just as she reached it. One twin—she could not tell which in the dim lighting—stepped in dripping wet. He pulled his hood away from his face, and Gilraen could see who he was. "Elrohir, did you—"

"Aye, we did," he gently interrupted. "And I think he will be fine."

"You think?" Her voice grew stiff.

The peredhel calmly unclasped his brooch, letting the cloak drop down. "Provided that he stays home and rests." he finished, glancing backwards at his brother, who had come in raking his hand through his hair and murmuring something about a hot bath. "Did you hang up your lantern?"

"Yes, and I have—" Gilraen pushed past them both, and nearly bumped into Elrond. The elf-lord stepped back a pace. "He sleeps, my lady."

"And will he be all right?" Her eyes sought that of the peredhel's. "He will heal?"

He smiled down at her. "In time."

She reached out a hand, brushing away the hair that fell into Aragorn's pale face. "Estel? Can you hear me?" she whispered. "You can wake up now." Her fingers snagged in a tangle, and she pulled away, letting her hand rest against his cheek. "Iôn nîn?"

Grey eyes blinked up at her, slightly glazed with both sickness and sleep. "Mother?" His hand reached up to cover that of the other's. A confused frown crossed his features. "Was I not outside, battling for my life?" He glanced up to catch his father's eyes. "Must be dreaming."

"You do not, Estel," Elrond softly answered. "You are home, hên vuin nîn, where you belong." His voice was gentle as he carried his youngest toward the stairs. Gilraen gave him one final kiss to his forehead. "I will join you in minute," she said before hurrying up the stairs ahead of them. "Do not think you are not getting out a lecture, my son."

If he could've, he would have snorted. "No, I would be surprised if you did not, Naneth," he replied under his breath. He bit his lip when Elrond gently shifted him.

"Are you well?"

"Enough. It hurts less than when I was outside, on my own..." His voice trailed off a bit before he continued. "Thinking I was going to die out there." His fingers, though bruised and scratched, still managed to grip the sleeve of Elrond's tunic with some strength. "But I did not."

Even as he smiled up at the half-elf, Aragorn's eyes blurred with tears, yet these were happy ones. "Hannad, Ada," he said faintly. "For coming for me...for bringing me home..."

"Shh," Elrond pressed a finger against his son's lips. "There is not need to thank me." They reached the top of the stairs, and he turned the corners that would lead to Aragorn's room. "Remember, Estel," he said, gently releasing the man's grip on his sleeve. "I will always be there to take your hand, and lead you home, where ever home may be."

Aragorn relaxed. He knew he would not be going anywhere on his own for a long time, he did not mind at all. He let out a contented sigh. He was among his family, among those he loved, and it was enough.

Hope cannot be seen or heard,

Nor tasted, smelled, and felt.

Yet it is still there,

Ever guiding and ever alight.

-

It encourages the hearts of many,

Touches many lives,

And dwells in the hearts of others;

Always there,

Yet always unseen.

The End


Translations (Sindarin unless otherwise specified):

Peredhel – half elf

Gwarth – traitor (According to Dragon Flame, it's literally "betrayer".)

Avo pedo ha – Don't say it

Muindor – brother (kin)

Daro – stop

Iôn nîn – my son

Gwador – brother (sworn)

Hên vuin nîn – My beloved child

Naneth – Mother

Hannad – thanks


A/N: Well, that's it. It has turned out longer than I liked it to be, and I was tempted to split this into two more chapters. But I didn't. :)

A/N #2: Song featured at the beginning is a hymn titled "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" by Thomas A. Dorsey. It has been slightly modified. It's not mine. But the untitled poem at the end of the story belongs to me.

------------------------------------------------

Language Notes:

The lay recited by Aragorn in this fic came from the Fellowship of the Ring, and is recited by Samwise Gamgee. And no, I didn't do the translating. (It's a headache just to type Quenya! Maybe one day I'll find the patience to properly devote time to Tolkien's languages...) Translation found as a PDF file from the website Ambar-Eldaron(It's in French, though. I was also informed that the translation may not be the best, because it came from a French version of The Fellowship of the Ring. But really, since Bilbo translated it from Quenya, perhaps his was not the best one to be found. I think Aragorn might've done it better, having lived in Rivendell until he was twenty. But that's only my opinion, and because I dearly love all things Aragorn. -Grin-). Link given by Ederchil over at Peth Pêd Peth, the Merin Essi ar Quenteli forum.

Why did I use Quenya? To quote the book:

'He did not make it up,' said Strider. 'It is part of the lay that is called The Fall of Gil-galad, which is in an ancient tongue. Bilbo must have translated it. I never knew that.' I'm assuming the ancient tongue refers to Quenya.

All that we know of The Fall of Gil-galad:

Gil-galad was an Elven-king,

Of him the harpers sadly sing:

The last whose realm was fair and free,

Between the Mountains and the Sea

-

His sword was long, his lance was keen,

His shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

-

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
In Mordor where the shadows are.

---

I used the only first six lines.

Last A/N:

Farewell until we meet again, and thank you for reading and bearing with all my delaying!

Calenlass Greenleaf1