A/N: WITH THE LAST CHAPTER ENDED THE FIRST PART OF THIS SERIES: THE BIRTH OF HOPE. WITH THIS CHAPTER BEGINS THE SECOND PART: ESTEL ELRONDION. THIS SERIES SHALL RECOUNT THE EVENTS THAT HAPPENED DURING THE YEARS 2933 AND 2951 OF THE THIRD AGE OF MIDDLE EARTH. IT WILL BE THE PERIOD WHERE ESTEL GROWS AND HIS TRAINING WITH THE ELVES. HOWEVER THIS SERIES SHALL ALSO RECOUNT WHAT THE DUNEDAIN DID DURING THESE YEARS TO COUNTER THE MENACE OF SAURON AND THE MEETINGS OF THE WHITE COUNCIL. ENJOY!
CHAPTER – 15
ESTEL WE SHALL CALL YOU
Five days had passed since Arathorn had been passed away. The journey was slow and wary. Even though the orcs had fled to the north, there was still a danger to them. They had not taken the road, instead ridden through the wildernesse that stretched south of it. The forests around provided them ample cover. They had passed Weathertop two days back and they were now coming nearer to the banks of the River Mithieithel. They could hear the roars of the river as the waters splashing upon jagged rocks.
Mithieithel was a swift river, its waters vigorous as it flowed down to the valleys from the Misty Mountains. There was no other way to cross it other than the Last Bridge except if one wished to swim across which was dangerous.
Elladan stayed their advance. "We need to get to the Road. The Last Bridge is the only way across the river."
Elrohir nodded. "Well, we rest here a little and then we ride."
Elladan looked at him and said, "Tired early, brother?"
Elrohir laughed. "You wish. I only asked for a respite because I presume Lady Gilraen is tired and little Aragorn has already slept."
"Fair enough." said Elladan.
Elladan looked at Lady Gilraen whose shoulders were already slumping and her eyes little drowsy. He ran to her and before she could fall off her horse, he caught her in his arms. "My lady!" he cried.
Gilraen opened her eyes warily.
"We rode hard today." said Elladan.
"I know, brother and without breaks. But we have to. The enemy scours these lands now. Even more will they do so since we advised the Dunedain to lay low and hide in secret places. We must reach Imladris faster. Already the sun is high and noon withers past. Soon evening shall fall and then night shall come." replied Elrohir.
Elladan nodded. "True. But, remember brother, these are not elf-kind. They are mortals. A woman and a child at that. And Lady Gilraen, she is already bowed down by grief, by her loss. She stays strong for little Aragorn."
"Yes, but do not blame yourself then for the riding hard. We both know how much pressed we are. The faster they reach the safe strongholds, the better off they will be."
"Yes, true you speak but now bring me the leather pouch. I think we must give Lady Gilraen some of the elven draughts."
"Aye! Let her drink it. Then we can stay here awhile and then leave."
Elrohir marched off and then bearing the leather pouch, he came back. He handed the pouch to his brother and went away again to stand beside their horses who were eating off what little grass they could find.
Elladan rummaged through his pouch and took out a flask filled a golden colored liquid. He removed the lids of the flask and put a mouthful each into Gilraen and Aragorn's mouths. A moment later, Gilraen stirred in her body and Aragorn woke up, looking at the trees with his curious puppy looking eyes.
Elladan smiled. "Well, Lady Gilraen, how are you feeling?"
Lady Gilraen rubbed her eyes and looked at him. "Better, my lord."
Elladan smiled again. "Good. We shall rest awhile before we ride again. Before the night falls, we must reach the Fords of Bruinen."
Lady Gilraen nodded.
Elladan looked at her sympathetically and went to Elrohir who was now playing with little Aragorn.
"She is in grief." He whispered.
"Grief she will have. She has suffered a great loss. Arathorn's death has been a great loss. I fear her hurts might not heal, not even in Rivendell." answered back Elrohir.
Elladan began to look grave. "These plans we made, never did it turn out well. Who knows what black thoughts marred them? Again we suffer a defeat."
Elrohir said, laughing along with the child, "Through many defeats we shall come to a long victory, brother. Have hope."
"I did not say I had lost hope."
"Yet you whine of a defeat. If one plan fails, there will always be another. All our hope now lies on this young boy."
Elladan caressed the little boy's head. He smiled. "Like a brother he shall be to us."
"Aye, our little brother! But he already is. He is our kinsman."
Elladan left Elrohir to play with little Aragorn and he stood out watching the western lands. The forest was silent. There were little birds and those that were made little sound.
Half an hour passed by swiftly and Elrohir called out. "Brother, Lady Gilraen, its time we left this place. Time does not wait. We must reach the fords ere night falls"
Elladan helped the lady onto her horse, placing Aragorn before her. Then he leapt upon his own horse and they all rode away northward.
A few minutes later, they passed on the Last Bridge. They met some dwarves who were traveling west who gave them not so good news. They said evil stirred in the east and the mountains were teaming with goblins. They had been attacked they said and only when old Rodrik the leader of the dwarven company struck down their band did they flee back into their caves but Rodrik was also killed in that fight.
The twin sons of Elrond said they were sorry for their loss and wished them well. The dwarves carried on their journey westward and they on their way.
Evening fell and the sun set below the horizon. Already darkness was settling in. They heard the roars of Bruinen. Elladan screamed in joy. "The Fords are here. We are quite near."
Elrohir clapped Elladan on his back. "Yes we are near. Home at last."
Lady Gilraen laughed. "You miss your home yet you are always in the outside world."
Elladan furrowed his brows. "Home is home, my lady. Imladris is a haven for those who love peace and music as you will see. But we have not forgotten the torment of our mother at the hands of the orcs. For that, we seek vengeance."
Elrohir brought some dry wood which he found some distance away and lit a small fire.
"Sleep, my lady. Make Aragorn sleep too. The night is going to be long."
"I am not sleepy. I have a mind to wake."
"You must rest. Riding is tiresome."
"Yet you do not rest."
"We are not so weary, lady."
"Not weary, you say. Then why stop? Let us ride and reach Imladris the faster."
"The paths are better by light, my lady."
Gilraen looked at him. "As you say, but then do not ask me to sleep. Not now."
Elrohir nodded. "As you wish."
Elladan looked at the river that flowed nearby. "Should we not have crossed and rested?"
Elrohir said, "Oh, do not be a spoilsport now after I have toiled to light this fire, small as it is. Anyways, this fire is not making any smoke. Besides, the Enemy would not dare come near Rivendell."
Elladan smiled. "That is if they know the hidden fortress is just close by. The Enemy guesses maybe but its minions might not know. The river is our border. Might we not have crossed it and rest? The orcs would not cross this sacred water."
Elrohir nodded. "But I would not have you move us now. Not after all I have toiled."
"The fire, you mean?"
Elrohir said, "Aye."
"The lighting of a fire is not a big deal for an elf. Maybe you are not."
"If I was not, why would I still have the grace of the Eldar?"
"Maybe because I am your brother and the Valar would not have you sundered from me."
Elrohir laughed. "Why do such foolish thoughts cross your mind?"
Elladan smiled. "Because you bring up foolish questions. That fire you have not toiled for."
"I do not know why you are so anxious to move to the other bank? I do not see any imminent danger and my instincts have always proven us well."
"No doubt, brother, but still, my heart misgives staying here."
Elrohir looked at his brother in doubt. "There is no danger, brother. And if any comes nearby, we shall cross the river."
Elladan nodded. "I am just being paranoid, I believe."
Elrohir smiled. "Yes. The orcs have spoiled our plans of late. Perhaps you think this small plan of staying here for the night will also be spoiled. But by whom, dear brother? Ask yourself."
Gilraen smiled as she saw them arguing and then she remembered her own brother, Iorlas. She remembered him. She played with him when she was a child. Iorlas always took care of her. He was always laughing. Five years back, he and father had had a fight. And he had left the village eastward. No news of him had ever come back. Grief again settled in her mind. She had lost her husband and her brother. The loss of Arathorn however had shocked her. This could not be. Her life force was withering inside but she knew she had to be stronger. If not for her, then for Aragorn. She had to be steady.
She said then, "If the brotherly arguments are over, then should I say that we should all goto sleep? The moon is high almost and we are all weary. But I know the elves will deny it."
Elladan laughed. "So we will. You should rest, my lady. And so does Aragorn."
Gilraen nodded. "Then I must wish you both a good night."
Elrohir smiled. "Then you must. Good night to you too, my lady. May the dawn bring you fresh hope and strength."
"The dawn is still far away, lord."
"Not quite. But I know for a fact that Ithil will always rush behind Anar."
Gilraen laughed and for that time, it was like a small child.
"Sleep, my lady. As the sun rises, we shall ride and be on our way."
The sun rose early the next day and Elladan and Company were already riding. They had crossed the Fords of Bruinen sometime ago. They had gone a few miles when they were stopped. Three elves, wearing a green and brown dress, came out of the trees.
"Oh! Pardon us, lords. We did not know it were you." said the elf to the left. He was tall and with black long hair.
"Well, Lindir, nothing of matter." said Elrohir.
"I see you bring mortals."
"Yes, Lindir, the lady here is Gilraen, daughter of Dirhael. And this is her little boy. He has not been named yet."
Gilraen looked up at Elrohir.
Lindir looked at her and said, "She looks to be one of the Dunedain."
"Yes, Lindir. She is one of them. Now we must hurry. We must see our father."
"Yes, my lords. You may pass."
Elrohir and Elladan both bowed and gave a hearty kick to their steeds. The Company moved through sharp ravines and steep cliffs until in the distance, Gilraen beheld the hidden fortress of Imladris. Her mouth opened as she looked at it in wonder. Elladan laughed and then she suddenly closed her mouth, ashamed that she had done so despite her royalty.
"Do not feel shamed, my lady. Many a mortal has that same look on their faces when they first behold the last homely home. Welcome, Lady Gilraen, to Imladris, Rivendell as you call in the Westron tongue."
Within a few moments, they were there at the gates. They had crossed a long stone bridge that went over a bright stream which came down from the mountains beyond. They entered through the gates only to find a great pavilion, floors of white marbles. Lord Elrond stood there in his kingly garb and beside him were Lord Glorfindel and Erestor.
Lord Elrond strode forward as they alighted their horses.
"Welcome, Lady Gilraen of the Dunedain. You have been long awaited." He said.
"As have I awaited to look upon your lordship and the hidden valley, which I had heard was beautiful. Now that I have seen it, I do think the rumors were not just rumors." answered Lady Gilraen.
"And for that, I thank you. Here is Lord Glorfindel and Erestor, counselor to the house of Imladris."
Gilraen bowed to them gracefully.
Erestor smiled. "You remind me of Isilmire, wife of Elendil."
Gilraen smiled. "Thank you, my lord."
"You are most welcome, my lady, to Imladris."
"Thank you, my lords."
Lord Elrond smiled. "We must now go inside. Some words are best not spoken here."
Lord Elrond led them into a small room quite nearby. There was a small hearth in which a fire burned. There were chairs and tables and there was one wooden cot, beautifully garbed in red and blue which rested near a window overlooking the falls.
Elrond bade her sit upon one of the chairs. Elladan and Elrohir brought Aragorn in.
Elrond and the other chieftains of Rivendell looked on him. Elrond smiled. "Here is little Aragorn. I long have desired to look upon him, Gilraen. Now that you have brought him here, I am most happy."
Gilraen nodded and bowed.
"You must be wondering why I intended to bring Aragorn here."
"I guess, my lord, but I do not yet know clearly."
"Then I shall speak to you clearly. I wanted Aragorn to be brought here so that he be safe and he be protected. Our plans have backfired and the Enemy still wages his war in the east. We have led the orcs to believe that with Arathorn's death, the line of Isildur too has failed and we must keep this belief for many years. Despite this misleading, Sauron will keep searching for the heir of Elendil. He will never forget but in years, much pressing thoughts may enter his mind and then he will be busy. Even then, I think the lineage should not be revealed to him for it might provoke a huge war."
"Then what do you intend to do, my lord?"
"We shall train Aragorn here in Imladris and at the Grey Havens to the West. But during this time, he must forget his name, he must forget his entire lineage. I assure you this information shall not go out of Imladris. Thus the line shall be preserved, only hidden, deep and secret."
"But my lord, if he knows not his ancestry, he might forget who he is."
"No. We shall him tell his truth when I deem the time is right and when he is ready for it. Right now he is not. I see the sadness in his heart. He still wonders why his father wakes not from the sleep. He will be asking for Arathorn but you will not tell him. At least you shall not speak your husband's name in front of him. This I must ask of you."
Gilraen nodded sadly.
"You must think of a new name, Gilraen. A name that befits him."
Gilraen looked up. "He shall be named Estel."
"Estel!" remarked Elrond. "Yes, Estel we shall call him. Hope. For hope he shall be for the Dunedain. I foresee it. If he succeeds in the tests of his life, then he shall rebuild this hurt world. If he fails, then all the world shall be plunged into shadow. A great doom lies upon him. Yes, Estel befits him."
He bent in front of the boy and said, "Estel we will call you from now."
The boy looked into Elrond's eyes and said, "Estel."
"Estel here shall be from today onwards my foster son. He shall be Estel Elrondion."
"I thank you for your grace, Lord Elrond." said Gilraen.
Elrond looked at her and smiled. "It is my duty to the Dunedain, Gilraen. He is of the line of my brother, Elros. I shall look after him like a son."
Then the chieftains left the room. Elladan and Elrohir remained behind, clutching little Estel.
Elrohir said, "I did say he would be like our brother."
Elladan smiled. "Yes, you did say."