1st birthday – Birth. Gilraen gives Arathorn a son. Aragorn. Arathorn cries with mingled sorrow and joy – Joy at this wondrous gift, sorrow at the burden he has been born into.
Arathorn paced nervously outside the thatched hut, gritting his teeth and clenching his jaw. Gilraen had gone into labour early in the morning and the day had come and gone seemingly without progress. Darkness had fallen and still, no babe. He'd been informed by the healer that a long labour was normal for first born babies but he'd expected "long" to mean a few hours, not a few days! Those sitting around the campfire watched their chieftain in his uneasy pacing. Those who had children of their own smiled to themselves, remembering their own anxiety. One of them got up from his seat and went to Arathorn's side. Arathorn jumped as his right hand man, Halbaron seemed to suddenly appear out of the shadows.
"Halbaron I am anxious enough already without you popping up out of the darkness!"
"You have no need to be anxious my friend. Gilraen is strong and the healer has much experience in the birthing of babes. She will be fine"
"But surely it should not be taking so long!"
Halbaron smiled "when Halbarad was born, my wife was labouring for 2 days"
"2 DAYS!" the colour left Arathorn's face and he felt a little faint.
"My point is that despite seemingly taking an age, both mother and babe were perfectly fine. And yours will be too."
Arathorn took a deep breath, running his hands over his face. "I do not know if I can wait two days"
Halbaron laughed "if you can wait two days?! You're not the one even doing any work!"
At last Arathorn smiled. But the brief moment of calm was broken by a scream, tearing through the peace of the entire camp.
Arathorn lurched forward, throwing himself into the thatched hut. Ignoring the healer and assistants he rushed to his wife's side. She was arching her back up off the ground, yelling in pain. Sweat beaded her red face. Arathorn took her hand, his throat dry.
"Is she alright?" he asked the healer.
She smiled back at him. "She is just fine. The baby is crowning"
"The head is presenting. Your babe is almost here"
Gilraen sank back to the ground with a weary moan. "No more. I can go no longer."
"The babe is coming, Gilraen, but not yet here. You must keep pushing"
"I can't. No more"
"If she says no more, than no more it is!" Arathorn growled, bending over his wife. Exhaustion and pain was writ over her features. He kissed her gently, holding her hand. Feeling his touch, her hand closed around his.
"My lord… she can rest momentarily, but she must keep pushing. She can not leave this babe half born" the healer was insistent
Arathorn was silent for a moment. "I know you are stronger than this my love" he whispered in Gilraen's ear
"Arathorn…" Gilraen took a shaky breath "I have been labouring… since day break"
"I know, I know. But now you are so close. Just think, soon it will all be over and you will hold a babe in your arms. A child all your very own. Do you not want to see our babe?"
"Of course I do…."
"Well we cannot if you give up now." He took a damp cloth from the healer and dabbed at her face and neck. "I know you have some strength left in you"
He grinned "Because I have argued with you often enough. I know you do not give up until you have well and truly won."
A ghost of a smile passed over Gilraen's face.
"There it is. There's the woman I know. Now are you going to birth this babe or should I go back to uselessly pacing?"
Gilraen raised herself up on her arms, half sitting up. "Get behind me…"
Arathorn hurriedly obeyed. She leaned against him, bringing her knees up. Interlacing her fingers with his, she clenched her jaw, took a breath… and pushed. Her mouth fell open in a defiant roar that shook the thatched hut.
"That's it Gilraen! One more and you will see your babe!"
"One more, my fighter, one more" Arathorn urged.
Shrieking loud enough to wake the dead, Gilraen threw her head back, pushing with all the might she had left. As her cry dwindled away, another one sounded. The thin wail of a newborn babe. Arathorn and Gilraen leaned forward, gazing with rapture into the healers hands. A little reddish purple form, still bloody and slick, lay there. A healthy, wriggling baby boy. Efficiently cleaning the babe off and snipping the cord free, the healer swaddled him and put him in his mother's arms. Gilraen cooed softly at him, running a finger over his face.
"Hello my son. Hello!"
He gazed up at her with big dark blue eyes.
"What should we call him?" she asked, looking up to her husband. But Arathorn did not answer. He stared down at the babe in her arms, eyes glassy, still as a stone.
"I have a son" he said, voice small and disbelieving. He closed his eyes and tears fell, coursing down his cheeks.
Gilraen leant up to kiss his cheek, putting the babe into his hands. He brought him close staring into his eyes.
"Aragorn" he breathed. The name of an ancient Dúnadan chieftain. "My son's name is Aragorn."
Suddenly he stood, rushing out of the thatched hut. Gilraen heard him calling out. "I have a son! I have a son!"
She smiled wearily and lay back. In this one moment, everything was perfect.
Arathorn stood in the centre of the village, yelling like a town crier. People came running to marvel over their future leader. Face veiled in the dark, Arathorn wept freely, holding his son close. He wept for sorrow, knowing the hard road ahead of his son. But he also wept for joy at this precious gift, for this new hope. For what his son would become.