Stories of Strider by lindahoyland
Summary:

A collection of ficlets originally posted for challenges now extended and polished.

A companion series to Tales of Telcontar focussing on Aragorn's adventures before he became king.

A mixture of angst,fluff,humour and drama.

Further characters and catagories will be added together with the stories


Categories: Third Age - War of the Ring Characters: Aragorn, Halbarad
Genres: Angst, Drama
Language: English
Warnings: Character Death
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 23 Completed: No Word count: 29942 Read: 27952 Published: 06/07/08 Updated: 09/10/18

1. Drawing the Eye by lindahoyland

2. No Hope for Myself by lindahoyland

3. Good king of cats by lindahoyland

4. Yavanna's Gift by lindahoyland

5. Mixed Blessing by lindahoyland

6. Twist of Fate by lindahoyland

7. Fire in the Blood by lindahoyland

8. Midsummer Magic by lindahoyland

9. Release by lindahoyland

10. The Ties that Bind by lindahoyland

11. The Stuff of Life by lindahoyland

12. Desert Skies by lindahoyland

13. Room at the Inn by lindahoyland

14. The Undiscovered Country by lindahoyland

15. The Way through the Woods by lindahoyland

16. The Deepest pain by lindahoyland

17. All Comes to those who Wait by lindahoyland

18. What may not bless my waking Eyes by lindahoyland

19. Things that go Bump in the Night by lindahoyland

20. Cat's Tales by lindahoyland

21. Gone Astray by lindahoyland

22. I will lift mine eyes by lindahoyland

23. Flight by lindahoyland

Drawing the Eye by lindahoyland
Author's Notes:

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story

With grateful thanks to Raksha.

Drawing the Eye

The two grey-cloaked men entered the chamber; its stone walls were cold and unwelcoming. The room had been Théodred's private room, but bore scant trace of its former occupant. It was bleak and sparsely furnished, holding only a rough pallet and a table and a chair. A meagre fire burned in the hearth, the flames offering little light and less warmth.

Moving carefully, Aragorn approached the table and carefully set the covered object he carried down upon it.

"Is this wise?" Halbarad asked anxiously. He lit the lamps, a frown creasing his pale face.

"Probably not, but it must be done. Remember, as the Heir of Elendil, I have the right to use the Orthanc-stone. The message you have brought me tonight from my Lady rekindles the fire in my blood. This is one of the trials I must overcome if I am to become what I was born to be!"

"I do not doubt your claim on the Stone, but to press it this night? You are weary after your labours of the past days. At least take rest first!" Halbarad pleaded.

"Would that I could, but time is a luxury we do not have. You need not stay, Halbarad; go and rejoin the others."

"I will not leave you," Halbarad said staunchly.

"Thank you, kinsman." Aragorn clasped the other's shoulder. "Your presence will give me comfort, but I must ask you to remain silent, and above all, do not approach me, lest our Enemy espy you from the stone."

Halbarad nodded reluctantly. He sat down upon the pallet in the far corner, his eyes never leaving Aragorn, and his limbs tense, ready to rise swiftly if needed.

Aragorn seated himself in front of the stone and flung aside the cloth that covered it. At first, the palantír seemed filled with heavy mist. Then a pinprick of light widened, became a sullen glow, which gradually burned away the mists, to reveal a great lidless eye. The great eye fastened upon him. Aragorn was suddenly hit by a wave of ancient malice that rocked him from head to toe. But if Sauron thought to cow him with such evil, as the Lord of the Dúnedain were a young hobbit or simple Bree-man, then their adversary would soon learn otherwise. Aragorn smiled grimly. Let it begin!

Aragorn stared at the Great Eye locked in combat as fierce as any passage at arms. The hours passed as Halbarad watched his lord sit still as if turned to stone, hardly seeming even to breathe.

The first glimmer of dawn lightened the eastern sky when Aragorn drew Andúril and rose to his feet.

The Great Eye vanished from the globe, its attendant fires slowly dissipating. The air in the room suddenly felt cleansed. Aragorn threw the cloth over the palantír. He swayed on his feet. Halbarad caught him before he could swoon and half dragged, half carried his kinsman to the pallet. Once there, he drew off his cloak and wrapped it around Aragorn. He uncorked his water bottle and coaxed Aragorn to swallow a draught. The Heir of Isildur was trembling and ashen faced. Halbarad placed a comforting arm around his shoulders.

As daylight entered the room Halbarad clearly saw his Chieftain's haggard features. Aragorn seemed to have aged by decades overnight and looked every one of his eighty-eight years. "I fear tonight's struggle has cost you dearly," said Halbarad, unable to hide his concern.

Aragorn managed a grim smile. "The attempt had to be made to draw Sauron's attention," he said." I told the Dark Lord. I am here, Sauron, I Aragorn son of Arathorn the heir of Isildur; he whom you have long sought and believed was slain. Behold! I bear the tokens of my lineage, the star of Elendil and the sword that was broken! This sword now reforged shall once again mete out justice to you. I am coming to Minas Tirith to take what is my rightful inheritance! The struggle was hard, but my will prevailed."

"The Valar be praised, we have hope at last!" Halbarad exclaimed. "Sleep now Aragorn, rest a little while you may."

Aragorn lay back on the pallet and closed his eyes. He found, though, that he was too weary for sleep. Halbarad was already snoring loudly. He regarded his kinsman with a wave of affection. They had shared many adventures together over the years, but drawing Sauron's Eye had been Aragorn's hardest trial yet. A sudden flash of foresight chilled his blood. Halbarad would not live to see the outcome of this struggle. He wished he could send his kinsman back to the relative safely his wife and children in the North. He knew, though, Halbarad would not leave his Chieftain's side as the hour of his destiny approached.

Aragorn had chosen this course. He must now follow his path to its bitter end.

End Notes:

A/N. This is an extended version of the story I wrote for “Attempt” on the AA List.This is my first attempt to write Halbarad.

It is the first in a series; Tales of Strider, companion series to Tales of Telcontar. These stories will focus on Aragorn before he became king.

No Hope for Myself by lindahoyland
Author's Notes:

No Hope for Myself

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate.

 

'I gave Hope to the Dúnedain, I have kept no hope for myself. – Gilraen, The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen- Tolkien.

Dedicated to the memory of all beloved Mothers no longer with us.

 

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra

 

Aragorn awoke with a start. A feeling of bleak emptiness was gnawing at his soul. It were as if part of it had been torn away. He immediately sensed that what he had long feared had happened; his mother had passed beyond the circles of the world. 

Guilt and grief overwhelmed him. He should have remained at her side. It had been all too clear to him that Gilraen was fading; overwhelmed by a lifetime of care and sorrow. She had told him herself that they would not meet again in this life. He had not wanted to believe her, but her foresight had proved correct. He remembered clearly that final morning when he had embraced his mother for one last time, and begged her to have hope. He had offered to stay longer, but she had urged him to go and continue to fight the evil that threatened them all.

Overcome with sorrow, Aragorn wept, as memories of Gilraen swam before his eyes. She had always been there for him, teaching him to be proud of his human heritage in a house full of Elves, comforting his childish sorrows, and calming his youthful insecurities as he grew to manhood, always offering him unconditional love. If he closed his eyes he could see his mother now, smiling with pride at his achievements.  

Not waiting until morning, Aragorn tied up his bedroll, extinguished his campfire, mounted his horse, and rode through the bleak winter landscape of Eriador to pay his final respects to Gilraen. A pale sun, devoid of warmth, rose over the eastern horizon, piercing the grey mist and illuminating the skeletal forms of the bare trees.   

The earth on his mother’s grave was freshly dug. They had buried her but a few hours before he arrived. His kinsman, Halbarad greeted him with a warm embrace. “Your mother did not suffer,” he told Aragorn. “As the days grew shorter, she simply grew weaker. My sister, who stayed with her, said Gilraen would have nightmares of darkness encompassing the land. Sorrow overwhelmed her. She could not endure to live through such days of darkness and died quietly in her sleep.”

Halbarad and the other villagers withdrew, leaving Aragorn to pay his final respects at his mother’s grave. Aragorn stood there, lost in thought. Gilraen was renowned for her foresight. Was there truly no hope, no escape from the darkness from the East? Sauron grew ever stronger. Would any escape enslavement or death at the hands of the Dark Lord? At least no one could hurt his mother now, but that was but a cold comfort for the loss of the woman he had loved so dearly.

He remained but a day, and then urged his horse on to Imladris. Elrond had assured him his welcome would always be warm, despite the shadow of his love for Arwen that hung between them.

It was Arwen, rather than her father who came forth to greet him. “My heart sensed your sorrow,” she said, drawing him against her in a close embrace.

“Alas, Arwen,” said Aragorn. “I fear that my mother’s sorrow will engulf us all.” He rubbbed his eyes wearily, trying vainly to blink back the tears that welled up within him.

“Nay, Estel, take courage. Your mother was a good and wise woman, I grew to love her too, but all foresight is merely a glimmer of what lies ahead. My heart foretells that, although darkness will come, the light that lasts through it will shine all the stronger. Your mother rightly hailed you as the hope of Men, as your valour will play a great part in the final victory.”

Arwen’s eyes shone as if she saw something that others could not. Aragorn felt heartened. Maybe sorrow would one day give way to joy. He had hoped that his mother would live to see him take the throne of his ancestors. Alas, that she would never see her son wear the Silver Crown; but he would continue to strive and wish for a future with Arwen at his side. What better way to honour Gilraen’s memory than to restore the glory of their people and fulfil the hope he had been born to bring?

End Notes:

A/N This is an expanded version of a ficlet that was written for the AA List prompt “Sorrow”.

Good king of cats by lindahoyland
Author's Notes:

Good King of Cats

Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives - Shakespeare- Romeo and Juliet. 1.1

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate.

With grateful thanks to Raksha

Dedicated to Cairistiona on her birthday

Aragorn cautiously squeezed his lanky frame through the low door of the barn; it was surprisingly roomy within. A few goats were penned at the far side, while a ladder led up to a loft, where presumably grain and hay would be stored. More bales of hay were scattered around the ground floor. The Halflings seemingly required more food than Men, despite being but half their size. Aragorn was loth to trespass on Hobbit property, but could no longer withstand the fierce storm that raged outside. He would shelter and depart as soon as the rain had ceased.

He threw his pack down upon a nearby bale of hay, and then shook himself, the better to shed excess moisture from his hair. Then opening his pack, he took out his spare garments and started to divest himself of his dripping clothing.

A sudden rustle in the hay made him start and hastily cover himself. Then he laughed, seeing the watcher was a large ginger cat. The animal emerged from where it had been sleeping and started to wash its whiskers all the while eying him curiously.

“What strange creatures you must think us, Puss,” said Aragorn, pulling his dry shirt over his head. ”We must appear to you that we shed and re-grow our fur at will. Are you sheltering from the rain too? Or do you live here to keep the mice at bay?”

The cat mewed and came nearer.

“Are you hungry?” Aragorn asked the cat. “You are fortunate that I have just purchased provisions from Bree, and have fresh meat to spare.”

Finishing dressing, he rummaged in his pack and took out some fresh bread and bacon. He threw some scraps of meat in the cat’s direction. The ginger tom devoured them greedily. He then approached Aragorn and, rubbed his tawny head against the Ranger’s knee. Aragorn stroked the soft ginger fur and was rewarded by the sound and steady rhythm of the cat's contented purring.

The rain did not subside and Aragorn decided to spend the night in the barn. He pulled his blanket round himself and tried to vainly sleep. A dryness in his throat was worsening, and when he lifted his water bottle to drink, he was seized by a violent fit of coughing. He sighed in dismay, realising he had picked up an infection from the crowded common room of the Prancing Pony. Wishing to prevent the spread of infection to the Hobbits, Aragorn decided to leave the Shire. He rose, with the intention of leaving; but found he could hardly stand. It seemed he had caught the dreaded “Fever”, for which even Elves had no cure .It could be a deadly contagion, even for a strong man like Aragorn, but the most at risk were the very young and the very old. While common folk blamed it on the malign influence of the moon, the Wise believed it was carried in the breath. It was too late now to matter to Aragorn now how one might catch it. He was infected and would have to remain here, caring for his needs as best he may.

By dawn, Aragorn was shivering violently. He could not get enough warmth from even two borrowed blankets he had found in a corner.

Suddenly, something soft and warm landed against his chest. The cat stretched himself across the Ranger and settled to sleep.

“Thank you, Puss,” Aragorn croaked gratefully. Soothed by the animal’s presence, he fell asleep.

When Aragorn awoke it was bright daylight. A family of Hobbits surrounded him.

“It’s one of them Big Folk!” said one who appeared to be the father, though he would not even have reached to Aragorn’s waist had he been able to stand.

“Is it dangerous, Milo?” asked a tiny, stout female, obviously the mother.

“Marmalade likes him so he must be a good sort,” said a small Hobbit girl.

Aragorn was seized by a fierce coughing fit. Frightened, Marmalade fled to the far side of the barn. Aragorn then started to sneeze.

“Isn’t it noisy?” commented a little boy. He was about an inch shorter than his sister, with especially hairy feet.

“I think he has caught that fever we all had last month,” said the father.

“The poor thing looks quite ill, ”said the mother. ”That fever’s right dangerous. It killed poor Cousin Dora two months back. “Would you like some tea and hot broth, Master?” she asked addressing Aragorn timidly. “I am Mistress Peony Burrows, this is my husband, Milo and my two youngest Myrtle and Minto.”

“Thank you, Mistress,” Aragorn croaked. “I am Strider, a Ranger. I meant no harm. I was sheltering from the storm when the Fever laid me low.” Exhausted, he sank back against the hay.

***

The next few days passed in a blur of shivers and aches for Aragorn. The kindly Hobbits brought him warm drinks for which he was grateful and food, the sight of which turned his stomach. Marmalade stayed constantly at his side, a soothing presence. More than once, Aragorn buried his aching head in the cat's silky ginger fur.

On the fifth day, Aragorn awoke feeling much better. The Hobbit woman approached, carrying a bowl of something that smelled delicious. Aragorn devoured it greedily. Marmalade eyed him reproachfully, but was soon mollified when Aragorn shared some morsels of beef from the stew.

“Would you fancy a slice of my peach pie now?” enquired Mistress Peony. “I baked it only this morning.” She beamed approvingly at Aragorn’s empty bowl.

“That sounds delicious, Mistress,” said Aragorn, reaching out a hand to caress Marmalade. The ginger cat scrambled on to the man’s lap and purred contentedly.

“I’ve never known our cat to act like that before,” said Peony. ”Doesn’t like strangers, he don’t. I’ve often told my husband that even were the King to come back, our Marmalade would have none of him!”

.

End Notes:
A/N The Fever is a type of influenza. In “Web of Treason” Aragorn mentions he caught it when in the North.

Marmalade is based on my cat Leo.

This is an extended version of a story I wrote for the prompt “Animal” in the AA Group.

Peony Burrows is a Baggins; she and her husband and sons can be found in the Baggins of Hobbiton family tree in Appendix C in ROTK

Yavanna's Gift by lindahoyland
Author's Notes:

Title: Yavanna’s Gift

Theme: Myths

Elements: Elderberry

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Virtuella.

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. This story was written for pleasure, not profit

Dedicated to Harrowcat as a belated birthday offering.

The late afternoon sun bathed the narrow country lane in a golden glow. Newly reaped fields stretched as far as the eye could see like an enormous patchwork quilt. The hedgerows were laden with an abundance of wild berries, which three small figures were collecting in baskets almost as large as themselves.

“Come along, May, and get your basket filled. We don't have all day.”

“But, Ma, I’m tired!”

“I am sure your sister is too, but look how many berries she has picked!”

Bell paused for a moment and rubbed her back. The new baby was due any day now, but she was determined to harvest the last of the elderberries and make some jam before it arrived. Her elderberry jam was a great favourite with the lads, while Hamfast loved a drop of elderberry wine on a cold winter night.

“Ma, I’m tired too!” Eight-year-old Daisy put down her basket. “I like blackberries better!” To illustrate the point, she plucked a handful from the hedgerow and stuffed them in her mouth.

Bell sighed. Maybe they had come too far with the baby so near and the girls unaccustomed to walking more than a mile or so from home.

“Ma, why are elderberries black?” Daisy enquired.

“I’m sure I don’t know, Daisy. Now come on, just a few more berries to pick and we can go home.”

“I’m hungry, Ma!” four year old May complained.

“You should have eaten all your dinner then!” her mother retorted.

“There was too much cabbage and I don’t like cabbage,” the little girl retorted.

“Those were your Da’s prize cabbages that you were eating,” said Bell, plucking another umbel of berries.

“I don’t like cabbage and I’ll never like cabbage not until the king comes back!” May retorted, using an expression she was wont to copy from her elders. “I don’t like elderberries either; they taste and smell funny and make you feel sick!” the little girl pouted. She looked as if she were about to hurl the contents of her basket into the hedge.

“May!” her mother said in a warning tone.

“The bogey man will get you!” said Daisy somewhat gleefully. “Da told me a story where he comes to take naughty little girls away!”

Bell sighed again. The girls were usually so good. Why, today of all days did they have to be so unruly? Her backache was steadily getting worse and it was getting late. The sun was starting to sink in the western horizon and a low mist was forming over the surrounding fields, heralding the approach of autumn. She forced herself to smile. “Let us gather the berries from just one more bush, girls and then we’ll go home. If you are good, you can have mushrooms for tea.”

“Hooray!” May danced round gleefully. She did not see the exposed tree root and tripped over on it, falling to the ground with a loud cry before bursting into tears.

Bell knelt to comfort her daughter only for a sharp pain to stab through her belly. She knew that sensation all too well, having given birth to four children. The last two had been born really quickly and Mistress Primrose had said it was likely to be the same this time. The fifth was about to make its appearance at a most inopportune moment. She forced herself to remain calm. The Cottons' farm lay nearby. If she and the girls could but reach there, Farmer Cotton would send for the midwife.

“I can’t walk, Ma! My ankle hurts!” May sobbed while her mother tried to coax her to her feet.

Bell felt like bursting into tears herself as she thought of what to do next. Maybe if she asked Daisy to run to the farm? It was only a few lanes back, but still a long way for a little girl on her own.

Suddenly a stranger loomed out of the mist and climbed over the hedge to reach them. He was the tallest person Bell had ever seen, even amongst the Big Folk, a rough looking fellow in well-worn garments of dark green. The stranger's hair was dark and shaggy and his big hands seemed quite powerful as they reached towards her.

“The bogey man!” screamed Daisy starting to run.

Bell tried not to show the terror she felt. “If you want money, I have none!” she cried. “Please let me and my girls go on our way.”

The man dropped on his haunches, immediately appearing less threatening. Bell noticed that for all his fearsome appearance, the Big Man's deep grey eyes were kind.

“Come back, Daisy!” cried Bell, causing the child to freeze in her tracks.

“Peace, mistress,” said the stranger. “I was passing by and could not but help notice you and your daughter appear to be in distress. May I be of some assistance? You have my word that I mean you no harm.”

“Could you fetch help from the farm, sir?” Bell asked.

“I will take you there myself,” said the stranger. “If you could just hold on to your little one, I will carry you both.”

Bell took a deep breath and decided to trust the stranger. She bit back a cry of pain as another contraction seized her. “Thank you, Mister…? She said once the pain had subsided.

"I am called Strider; at your service;" the tall man replied. "I am a Ranger."

Strider scooped up Bell and Daisy in his arms as if they weighed nothing at all and made his way towards the Cottons' farm with great long strides. Daisy trotted along behind doing her best to keep up.

Strider appeared to reach the Cotton farm in minutes. The dogs started to bark at the approach of a stranger. Lily Cotton came out, her sons clutching at her skirts to investigate the noise. She gasped in alarm at the sight of the stranger carrying Bell.

“It’s alright, Lily,” Bell called from high in Strider’s arms. “Could Tom fetch the midwife please; my baby is on the way. This stranger helped me when I took poorly in the lane and May twisted her ankle.”

“Come in!” Lily cried, beckoning them through the doorway, which Strider entered with some difficulty. "It’s straight to the bedroom with you, Bell! I’d lend you one of my old nightgowns. Tom will have Mistress Primrose here in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Sit down, mister; I’ll fetch you a drink and a bite once I’ve sent Tom to the village.”

“I’m hungry too!” May complained.

“You shall have some bread and jam and a nice glass of apple juice,” Lily smiled.

She bustled off outside once Bell was safely ensconced in the bedchamber.

May started to cry once the door closed behind her mother. “Let me bind your, ankle, little maid,” said Strider. “It will hurt you much less then”

May nodded shyly. She whimpered for a moment as Strider gently felt her foot, but was smiling happily and sitting on his lap by the time Daisy came through the door panting with the effort of trying vainly to keep up with Strider.

***

Mistress Primrose arrived within the hour and disappeared into the bedroom together with Lily. Farmer Cotton took the boys outside to play despite the gathering dusk, which left Strider with the two little girls in the Cotton’s kitchen.

Bell’s cries from behind the closed door grew louder. Daisy and May looked increasingly scared. Lily bustled back and forth but never stayed long enough to tell them what was happening.

“What’s wrong with Ma?” May asked.

“She’s giving us a new sister or brother,” Daisy explained. “She cried like that when you were born.”

“I don’t want a new brother or sister!” May pouted.

“Shall I tell you a story?” Strider volunteered. After accepting a mug of ale and a hunk of bread and cheese from Lily, he had retired to the chimney nook to smoke his pipe.

“Yes, please!” chorused the little girls.

“You wanted to know why elderberries were black, did you not?” said Strider.

“You were listening!” Daisy said accusingly. “Ma says it’s rude to listen to folk talking and you’ll hear no good of yourself!”

“I was concerned about your mother,” Strider said mildly. “I thought you might need help. Now do you want to know why elderberries are black?”

“Yes!” said Daisy, while May thoughtfully sucked her thumb.

“Once upon a time, long, long ago Elbereth the Star Queen was placing the stars in the sky,” Strider began. “She was robed in a gown of gleaming silver and around her neck was a long necklace of shining pearls. As she went from star to star, one of the points of the stars caught on her necklace and broke it. The beautiful pearls fell down to earth, and as they fell they took on the colour of the midnight sky.

Yavanna the Bountiful caught the pearls as they fell and was about to return them to her sister when she noticed a tree sobbing pitifully. The tree called to her for help as all the other trees in the wood were bearing berries, while the poor Elder bush had none. Yavanna took pity on the tree and gave it her sister’s pearls, which ever since have been elderberries.”

“Did that really happen?” asked Daisy.

“So the Elves say,” said Strider with a smile.

Just then Lily entered the kitchen, a beaming smile on her face. “Your ma has someone she wants you to meet, girls," she announced. “Come on!”

Daisy and May followed her into the bedroom where their mother was sitting up in bed clutching a shawl wrapped bundle. Bell looked tired, but she was smiling. ”Daisy, May, meet your, new brother,” she announced holding up the bundle, from which a small red face peered. “I think this little one will share your Da’s love of growing things, since he almost arrived when we were picking elderberries!”

“What’s his name, Ma?” asked Daisy.

“Samwise, Samwise Gamgee,” Bell replied smiling lovingly at her baby son.

End Notes:

A/N This story was written for the LOTRGFIC “myths” Challenge and inspired by a friend saying long ago that she hoped her baby would not arrive on the day she hoped to make jam with a friend!

Mixed Blessing by lindahoyland
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain

 

Foresight was a mixed blessing, Aragorn mused. He glanced again at Halbarad. His kinsman stood leaning against the rail also lost in thought. They would reach land within a few minutes and there would be no further time for speech.

"You should return home," he said. "I still have need of you."

"If it is my fate to die, I cannot change it," Halbarad replied placidly. "Most likely I would fall from my horse or something on the way home and perish in a most ignominious fashion. At least this way, I shall die with honour in your service. Our foresight could be mistaken, though. Maybe I will die in my bed of old age."

"I do not want to lose you." Aragorn's voice was thick with emotion. "We have been through so much together."

"I would have liked to see you wearing the Silver Crown," Halbarad mused. "And be present at your wedding to the Evenstar. Then watch you reign justly and wisely for a hundred or so glorious years surrounded by your children."

"Is that foresight or wishful thinking?" Aragorn asked.

"Foresight that I know to be true." Halbarad's eyes were shining at this vision. "I have seen you best the Dark Lord in the palantír and summon the Army of the Dead. I was blessed to witness such marvels. But the best is yet to come for you, my friend."

"If you fall, victory will be tinged with sadness," said Aragorn. "My soul will be torn asunder to lose the brother of my heart."

"Your sorrow will be eased when you wed to your lady," said Halbarad. "Do not grieve, but remember the good times we shared. The days when food was sufficient and we feasted, the nights we slept under the stars and dreamed that our people's glory would be rekindled by the return of the King. I ask only that you see my family are cared for. I fear for my wife and children and their little ones."

"You have my word," said Aragorn gravely.

"You will find new friends," Halbarad said. Again the light of foresight was in his eyes. "You will meet one who will love you like I loved you, as friend, lord and kinsman. And you will grow to love him as if he were your own son."

"I wish I shared your faith. No other friend could replace you. Please, I beg of you, stay here on the ship and be safe!"

"I promised your lady I would carry her banner into battle and fight at your side. If you are to wed the Lady Arwen, you cannot treat her wishes so lightly. You made your vow to her and I have made mine. One keeps one's word to so peerless a lady!"

"Land ahoy!" Elrohir's call made them both start.

"Every man must one day accept the Gift and leave the circles of the world behind," said Halbarad. "What better way to do so than fighting at your side? It is not that we will be parted forever. The One will restore all things."

"Cast anchor!" cried Elladan.

The ship shuddered to a halt. Aragorn drew his kinsman into a fierce embrace. He did not want to let go. Halbarad was the first to pull away.

"Go, your hour is come," he said gruffly. "We must each ride to our destinies."

Twist of Fate by lindahoyland

Twists of Fate

B2MeM Challenge Roles and names of Aragorn1- Telcontar; Emotions- pain; Injuries and other ailments - Twisted ankle. Song lyrics - I saw all the bright people in imposing flocks they landed; All Ocs, all the time - a shade; Book Titles - Fragile Things; Rangers of the North- The Grey Company.

Format: short story

Genre: angst, hurt comfort

Rating: PG13

Warnings: mention of battle and character death

Characters: Aragorn, OMC

Pairings: none

Summary: In the Houses of Healing, Gilavir reflects on the Grey Company's adventures.

These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

Gilavir felt utterly ashamed. All around him in the Houses of Healing lay sorely wounded men. Some moaned in pain, while others lay in a poppy induced stupor after having arms or legs amputated. Others were there, seemingly unscathed in body, but gripped with dark dreams from which they could not awaken. The healers shook their heads over these folk and appeared more concerned about them that about those grievously wounded in body.

Gilavir had been knocked from his horse and carried from the field suffering with what he believed to be a broken ankle .When the healer, a garrulous old woman, examined him; she had pronounced it to be merely badly twisted. He had a few cuts and bruises as well, and a minor concussion from his fall, but felt he had no right to lie beside these sorely wounded men. His Chieftain had insisted, though, that he be brought to these houses when he was carried from the field.

Gilavir's thoughts wandered back over the events of the past few weeks. He had been delighted to ride South with the Grey Company to aid his Chieftain in the war he was fighting. He had seen marvels he had never dreamed of and sailed in a ship for the first time, adventures he would enjoy telling his family about, should he ever return home.

Other sights he had seen over the past weeks were matters of he could never speak to any other than his fellow Rangers, though. These memories would surely haunt him forever. He had thought he had experienced his fill of horror after being taken and tormented by Orcs several years ago, but he had learned there were even worse things that stalked Middle-earth than Orcs. There were Nazgûl, riding fearsome winged beasts that sucked all sense of life and hope from a man, monstrous trolls, and other fell creatures. The glimpse he had had of a Black Rider in the North had not prepared him for the horror they evoked here, so near to the stronghold of their master.

The shades of the dead had been the most fearsome of all, pale shadows that had followed them from the depths of the mountain. He would have run away, had it not been for his love for, and loyalty towards Aragorn. He had turned around once and one of the shades had appeared to glare at him with soulless gleaming eyes. He had been glad his attention had been forced towards calming his terrified horse, or he most surely would have cried out in terror. The shades had not threatened them, though, but obeyed Aragorn's will.

He had seen a side of his Chieftain that he had never even dreamed of before. What manner of a man was Aragorn that even the shades of the dead bowed to his will? He thought of the man he knew, the bravest of warriors, the gentlest and most skilled of healers, and the best of comrades; a man who enjoyed a song and a story around the campfire like any other. A change had come over his lord; he was now far grimmer than before. He had developed an aura of power and majesty like some hero from the tales of old.

Gilavir's thoughts turned to the battlefield. He wished they had not. He had fought in countless skirmishes, but nothing like this. Thousands upon thousands of men and horses fighting against other men, and foul monsters. They had winged beasts and creatures larger than great buildings! Never would he forget the clash of arms, the screams of the wounded and dying and the stench.

He had seen Halbarad fall, cut down by a Southron scimitar. Gilavir closed his eyes, wishing the image would go away, but it did not. Aragorn, alight with such fury, as Gilavir had never yet seen, had swiftly ridden to avenge his kinsman, but it was too late. Halbarad, much- loved friend and loyal comrade of many years, would not be returning home with his companions.

Gilavir found he was shaking. The pain in his ankle had grown worse. A passing healer noticed his distress and gave him a potion. He drank it and fell into an uneasy sleep. He dreamed of a great host, sailing in a ship, like unto the one he and his fellows had travelled to Minas Tirith in. It was filled, though with the slain, who gleamed bright as a spring morning. They were led by Halbarad, and landed in great imposing flocks on a distant shore where they became one with a great light.

When he awoke, night had fallen and the lamps had been lit. The atmosphere in the room had changed. Where before there had been fear and despondency, now there was a palatable sense of hope and excitement. Everyone around him was talking excitedly

"Lord Faramir is awake!" cried one of the women who was tending the sick. "He is eating and seems like to recover."

"Would that it were true, but I'll believe that when I see it!" said one of the wounded men. "No one awakens from the Black Shadow!"

"Dame Ioreth says the King has returned and he has the hands of a healer!" said the woman.

"You mean that Captain from the North is the King?" asked one of her companions.

Gilavir was just about to ask who Lord Faramir was and what all the fuss was about, when Aragorn, together with a handful of companions, entered the room. He watched as his Chieftain knelt beside those suffering from the Black Shadow and held a bowl of steaming water in front of their faces.

He recognised the scent; it was athelas, the herb that Aragorn had used to ease his torment after the Orcs had tortured him long ago. He watched as one by one the men opened their eyes and sat up. Aragorn looked sore weary. Gilavir wondered when his lord had last rested.

When the last of the sufferers from the Black Breath were roused, Aragorn made his way over to Gilavir's bedside.

"How do you fare, my friend?" he asked.

"The healer said all that ailed me was a twisted ankle and a minor concussion." Gilavir flushed scarlet.

"Ankles can be fragile things. Let me see it."

Gilavir pushed his ankle from beneath the blanket, gritting his teeth at the movement.

Aragorn felt it gently. "It is a bad sprain. You could not have continued fighting on it, especially not with a head injury too," he said.

Gilavir felt a great sense of warmth emanating from Aragorn's hands and easing his pain.

"The people here are hailing you are the king returned, lord," Gilavir said.

"There is still a long road ahead, but I am set upon it," said Aragorn. "The young Steward has hailed me as king, which his father would never have done. If my House ever be established, it shall be the house of Telcontar."

"Strider in the High Tongue?" Gilavir burst out laughing.

"It would not do to forget where I come from!" Aragorn joined in his laughter. "Now, I fear, I must leave you, my friend. Many others need me. We will meet again soon." He kissed Gilavir lightly on the brow.

The younger man sat watching him leave. His Chieftain might have attained new heights of greatness, but he was still the same man that Gilavir knew and loved. He would be as good a king as he was a chieftain.

A/n. Posted in honour of March 15th when Aragorn came to Gondor and healed Faramir. Gilavir appears in several other of my stories, which are on this site.


Fire in the Blood by lindahoyland

Fire in the Blood – Linda Hoyland

Rating- T for mild sexual suggestion

Aragorn and Arwen face temptation.

Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

Dedicated to Shirebound on the occasion of her birthday.

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra for help with editing and Dreamflower and Lignota for plot ideas.

“It is kind of you and Strider to visit me, Lady Arwen,” said Frodo. He gestured for his visitors to sit on the couch beneath his window.

“I was concerned that you decided to eat alone in your room tonight,” said Aragorn. “I feared your wound might be paining you. You have had a long day with all the preparations for our departure." He glanced towards Arwen. “ You can speak freely in front of Lady Arwen. She knows all about the burden you bear.”

“I am simply tired,” said Frodo. “My shoulder isn’t hurting or anything.” His hand moved towards his waistcoat pocket and then to the chain around his neck.

“It is better if you try not to touch the Ring, Frodo,” Aragorn said gently.

“It seems so ordinary,” said Arwen. “At least from what I can see of it. I half expected it to glow or emit evil vapours of some form.”

“Would that it were just a plain old ring!” said Frodo. He pulled the chain from beneath his shirt. “Look! It appears to be a plain gold band, albeit an especially fair one, of which there must be thousands. Sadly, the fate of Middle-earth lies bound up in this Ring!”

“It is indeed fair to look upon,” said Arwen. She bent down to better examine the ring. “Who could think that such a pretty thing could be so evil?”

“How I wish that Bilbo had never found it!” said Frodo.

“Better by far Bilbo than one of Sauron’s minions,” said Aragorn grimly. “It is not a burden I would wish on either of you, though, Frodo.”

Frodo’s fingers reached absently towards the Ring again. Seeing Aragorn’s gaze upon him, the Hobbit clasped his hands together in front of him determinedly. “It seems to call to me, Strider,” he said. “Have you ever heard its call?”

“Indeed I have,” Aragorn said soberly. “It called to me that night in Bree when we first met and again when you offered it to me at the Council. It seemed to whisper in my ear, suggesting that I would be a mightier King than even Elendil were I to take it. Then I recalled how it beguiled even so great a man as Isildur and led him to his death and I resisted the temptation.”

“You will be as mighty as Elendil, Estel,” said Arwen. “You have no more need of a magic bauble than he did.”

“Gandalf told me of Isildur’s sad fate,” said Frodo. “Goodness, I’m forgetting my manners. He gestured towards a plate of cakes on a nearby table. “Would you like one? I wonder however Master Elrond’s cook knows these are my favourites.”

“I suspect that Bilbo told everyone here a great deal about you long before anyone even set eyes upon you!” Aragorn chuckled as he spoke.

The three enjoyed cakes and conversation for a while until Frodo was unable to stifle a yawn. Aragorn suggested that the Hobbit prepare for bed. “Make the most of Rivendell’s comforts while you may,” he counselled before bidding Frodo good night.

Aragorn was about to return to the Hall of Fire when Arwen caught his arm. “Walk in the gardens with me for a while,” she pleaded. “The stars are especially beautiful tonight.”

Hand in hand, they strolled through Rivendell’s winding pathways. The bare branches of the birches looked especially fair under the silvery light of the moon and stars.

“It was here beneath the birches I first beheld you, Estel,” said Arwen.

“I have loved you from that moment on,” said Aragorn.

“Something stirred in my soul even then,” said Arwen, “though it took me longer to know my heart. Now it is given into your keeping.”

“It gladdens my heart that we can have this time together ere I depart,” said Aragorn.

They paused in their walk and for a moment gazed into each other’s eyes. Then their lips met with increasing passion.

“Marry me!” cried Arwen when they finally broke apart for breath.

“There is nothing I would desire more, vanimelda,” said Aragorn. “Should this quest succeed and I gain Gondor’s crown we can finally be united.”

“But what if it should fail?” said Arwen. “Then I will be left alone and bereft without even a child of yours to remember you by. These are troubled times, we need only to speak our vows to each other, according to the custom of my people and we would be lawfully wed. I know my father desires for us to wait, but what can he know of the great longing I feel for you?” She kissed Aragorn again, this time with even greater hunger.

“Vanimelda!” He pulled her close. She was trembling, but not from the cold.

He kissed her back, feeling the heat rise within him. More so than was usual in their brief touches, Aragorn noted. Why, it was as if the very blood in his veins was turning to fire. The part of him that was Elrond’s pupil observed that this was foolish exaggeration; but no matter. This was not mere desire; this was a great burning tide roaring up within him. All of Aragorn’s body and heart seemed aflame. He had to take her, make her his; for now and all eternity! For the first time, oddly, he thought of Fëanor’s obsession with the Silmarils with sympathy. Why should he wait on the querulous, cautious whim of Elrond, who had not touched a woman in five hundred years; when Arwen was warm, wanting, and the light of Aragorn’s life? His. His own, and more precious than even the Silmaril that Beren and Lúthien had wrested from Morgoth’s crown!

 

 “Bestow your child upon me ere you leave!” pleaded Arwen. “May the stars shine upon our union as I call on the Valar and the One to witness that I take you for my husband now and until the breaking of the world.”

“Must I leave you?” said Aragorn, kissing her again. “How could I depart having known the sweetness of our union, especially if you were to carry my child? Let Halbarad take my place, he could protect Frodo as well as I could. I have already given more years of my life than I care to think about defending the Shire and Bree.

All I receive in return is the suspicion and ingratitude of fools. Let us make a home in the Angle together. I cannot give you the luxuries you deserve, but we will be together. ”

His kisses became increasingly ardent and he fumbled with the fastenings on her cloak. She made no attempt to resist. The garden faded from his perception, as did the stars, and even the biting winter cold. It seemed that the world contained him and Arwen alone. The fire in his veins increased. Why should he be forever at the beck and call of others, constrained by duty and accident of birth, denied even the nightly pleasures that the humblest cottager might enjoy? He wanted Arwen now, wanted her to be wholly his in body and soul so that no one could dispute his claim to her, wanted to lie entwined in her arms without the barrier of clothing between them. His fingers moved to the fastenings of her gown.

Arwen reached to unfasten his cloak. Her slender fingers reached inside his shirt, tenderly caressing his skin.

Aragorn moaned with pleasure at her touch.

“What of Gondor’s silver crown that you were born to inherit?” asked Arwen after a few moments had elapsed.  

Aragorn reluctantly released her lips to answer. “An empty dream, alas,”  he said bitterly. “Denethor will never accept me; nor would Boromir. Then there is another son of Denethor’s whom Boromir claims is even more like unto their sire than he is. What hope do I have?”

“I would be happy in the meanest hovel, could I only share itwith you, Estel,” said Arwen. “Come speak your vows to me then we can retire to my chamber together. Long have I desired to lie beside you as your bride.”

Aragorn took her hand. “I call upon the Valar and the One to witness,” he began. He then looked up at the stars. The Star of Elendil shone brightest of all. Aragorn started as if awakening from a dream His head spun. Then a fresh breeze from the river seemed to blow away a veil from his senses. He took a step back from Arwen. “What are we doing?” he cried. “I gave Frodo my word to serve him; I gave your father my promise I would not take you as my bride until his conditions were fulfilled! What madness almost came upon me?”

The starlight caught the emeralds adorning the Ring of Barahir upon Arwen’s finger. “The Ring!” she cried.

Aragorn laughed bitterly. “The evil thing seeks out the weaknesses of those it seeks to tempt,” he said. “It offered us what we wanted most, not wealth or power but union with one another. I know now more than ever that I must embark upon this quest, as it sought so strongly to dissuade me from doing so.”

“And I, alas, acted as its instrument,” said Arwen. “I tried to lead you astray from doing what you know to be right.”

Aragorn kissed her tenderly on the brow. “It was not your doing, vanimelda, but the cursed trinket that Frodo carries that undid my forefather.” He drew Andúril and held the sword aloft. The blade glittered in the moonlight. “I swear I shall not let the Ring entice me to stray from the right path again. I shall only take you as my wife when I can swear to cherish you in front of all with your father’s blessing.”

“May Varda hear you and give you strength, beloved,” said Arwen. “I shall wait for you to return to me in triumph and make me your wife. Until then, I shall be with you in thought on every step of your journey.”

“I go forth strengthened by your love, vanimelda,” said Aragorn. “The way will be long and hard for Frodo, but somehow I will help him find a way to achieve the quest. By the power of your love, I will return victorious.”

Written for the February Teitho Contest where this story was placed second.

Midsummer Magic by lindahoyland

Midsummer Magic - Linda Hoyland

Prompt: Write a story or create art about the midsummer holiday (Lithe, Gates of Summer, or another midsummer holiday of your choosing).

Summary: Aragorn pays an unexpected visit to Rivendell.

Rating: PG.

Warnings: none

Beta: none

Disclaimer: The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story.

It was seldom nowadays that Aragorn’s journeys took him to Rivendell, especially during the warmer weather. It was usually in winter’s depths that he visited his childhood home, more often than not in need of supplies for the most vulnerable of his people.

Today, though, fresh from despatching a band of Orcs that he had tracked across the wilds, he found he was only a league or two from the Elven refuge. He could not resist the lure of a few days spent in the company of old friends. Besides, it would be as well to alert Master Elrond that Orcs had been roaming so near to his borders. There might well be more of the foul creatures abroad.

He entered the familiar Hall of Fire and was surprised to find it almost deserted, apart from a couple of elderly Dúnedain widows he had sent there a few months before to be treated for a variety of winter ills in the comfort their advanced years deserved. He greeted them warmly and enquired after their health before asking where everyone was.

“Why, have you forgotten the date?” cackled one dame. “It is Midsummer and all the Elves are outside celebrating the Opening of the Gates of Summer as they put it so poetically!”

“I’d much rather sit here by the fire,” said the other old dame somewhat disapprovingly. “Gallivanting around in the woods is for the young, thousands of years old though they might be! Not that I see much point in it myself.”

“I’m sure you did your share of gallivanting when you were young,” said her companion.

“Not I. I courted my Beren in my parents’ home in the proper manner, while you, I recall were nowhere to be found when your sister went looking for you one summer night and tongues wagged.”

The old lady flushed slightly. “Well, folk should have known better. I went after one of father’s sheep that strayed. It was but chance that I met with Halgorn on the way.”

“A fine chance indeed!” her companion snorted. “You were out gallivanting!”

Aragorn repressed a smile and left them to what he well knew was friendly bickering, which they secretly enjoyed. He made his way to the chamber that was, even after all these years, still always kept ready for him. He swiftly washed and changed into the elven style clothing that he kept here in his clothes chest. Master Elrond was saddened by the pledge he and Arwen had made, but had assured Aragorn that this was still his home where he was never less than welcome.

Aragorn helped himself to some food and drink from the almost deserted kitchens. He then wandered outside and made his way towards the woods from whence he could hear the faint sounds of well- loved elven music.

For some reason he could not explain, he turned aside from the main path and wandered off amongst the birch thickets. He intended to join Master Elrond and his household, but not just yet. Maybe it was because there seemed so little to celebrate of late. The Enemy grew ever stronger and with each year that passed, he lost more good men from his already meagre band of Rangers. Each death hit him like a blow. He was their leader. He always felt he could have somehow done more to protect his people. Then there were his own desires, as far away from being accomplished as ever. Would he be the last heir to the Kings of Old, destined to grow old and die unwed and childless? Yet all around him was filled with new life and growth. The balmy air smelt sweet enough almost to intoxicate him. Who could be downhearted on a perfect summer day? Yavanna’s gifts were at her must abundant. His sprits lifted and his heart soared with thankfulness.

His steps had led him to clearing amongst the trees. It was then as if time fell away and he was again the high- spirited youth who had first beheld the maiden, who from that day onward would forever more haunt his dreams.

She was dancing now, as she had then, but unlike him, the passing years had left no mark upon her brow. A carpet of elanor was beneath her bare feet and roses were bound in her flowing raven hair.

This time, though, she wore no gown and mantle, which lay folded beneath a great tree, but only a simple linen shift, which showed her graceful curves to perfection. Aragorn gasped. He had never beheld her thus before and she was even fairer than he had dared imagine. He trembled and flushed slightly.

Arwen sensed the presence of another and abruptly ceased her dancing. Then seeing who the intruder was, she smiled, and ran towards Aragorn and enfolded him in her arms. “Beloved!” she cried, between pressing kisses upon his lips. “I came here to dance alone, since I thought I could not dance with my beloved.” She gestured towards her discarded garments. “I desired to feel closer to the sun and the wind. Varda surely sent you to me this day! Come, dance with me and we will honour the opening of the Gates of Summer!”

“Arwen!” Aragorn exclaimed. “Little did I dare to dream that you might be here. I thought you were still in Lothlórien .”

“I returned here but last month. My heart foretold that you would soon return, but I did not dare hope you would come in time to dance with me.”

Aragorn’s head spun with a mixture of delight and desire. Yes, dancing would be good and distract him from thoughts he knew that he should not dwell upon until they were man and wife. Reluctantly, he pressed a final kiss upon her warm lips then held out his hand to her.

She laughed the sound like the ringing of a silver bell. “You would dance shod at Midsummer?”

He joined in her laughter and pulled off his boots and stockings together with his outer tunic. “Am I clad to your liking now?” he asked, glancing ruefully at his feet, which seemed so large and ugly beside her dainty ones. The grass felt soft and inviting beneath his feet.

“Very much so.” Arwen began to sing.

Aragorn took her hand and together they began to dance, swirling, and twirling in a giddy ecstasy. Time and space seemed to dissolve until they were no longer two, but one with each other and the breeze and the tree and the sky.

“What is happening?” Aragorn murmured in Arwen’s ear, though he scarcely cared, so lost was he in the moment.

“A little Midsummer magic of my people,” Arwen replied. “Do you not like it?”

“Very much so.”

“Then I shall wed you at Midsummer so the magic of our love will never fade.”

“I would gladly wed you in the most bitter of winters,” said Aragorn. “Ours is a love for all seasons. Yet, I agree I should like to be wed when Yavanna is at her most bountiful. Even the blossoms should rejoice at our union!”

“May Lady Yavanna and Lady Varda grant us that glad day soon!” said Arwen. Her lips met his in a long kiss.

A sudden gust of wind showered them both with falling white blossoms.

“See!” said Arwen. “Yavanna smiles on our love and Varda showers us with stars!” 


Release by lindahoyland

Title: Release

Author Name: Linda Hoyland

Prompt: Feet in Chains

Summary: Who were the galley slaves whom Aragorn freed?

Rating: PG13

Warnings: implied violence

Beta: none

Author's Notes: 500 word FLF

Disclaimer: The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story.

The whip cracked. Beren hardly flinched. At the beginning, it had terrified him, but now he felt only a bleak numbness. Keep on rowing, however much every inch of your body ached, and you were spared the whip.

He had been a fisherman once until the raiding party had come and taken him with the others in his small craft. That other life seemed but a dream. Now there was nothing but pain, sweat, stench, and the weight of rattling chains. Beren could not recall when he had last felt the sun nor not suffered the pangs of hunger and thirst. Hope at long since fled. Beren could do nothing other than struggle to survive and not be one of those thrown overboard when the corsairs no longer deemed him useful.

Suddenly, Beren heard the sound of a horn blowing somewhere in the distance. It was unlike any other sound he had ever heard. The sound seemed to be not of this world. Even in this place, such an unearthly blast sent chills down his spine and turned his blood to ice.

Fear gripped him and his fellows. They cried out in alarm. The whips ceased to crack as panic seized his captors. Beren heard a series of loud splashes followed by silence.

It seemed almost that time had stopped. The only sounds were those made by scurrying rats seeking to escape.

After what seemed like an eternity, he whispered to his fellow chained beside him. "They've gone, I think."

"Leaving us here to starve, if the rats don't get us first," his companion said grimly.

Beren made no reply. It seemed he would find release only in death. A grey mist seemed to surround him and the ghostly horn calls grew louder. His heart pounded so fiercely he felt as if it might explode.

A stranger entered the hold, Beren and his fellows flinched. Had their previous captors been overpowered? Might their new ones be even worse, if that were possible?

The man lit a lantern and Beren could see that he was no Corsair. The stranger wore a grey cloak with gems upon his breast and his brow, which gleamed like stars in the lamplight. "Do not be afraid!" he said. His voice was clear and commanding, but also filled with kindness. "I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, heir to Elendil. The Corsairs have flung themselves overboard and you are now free men. Your chains shall be struck off. There is one favour I would ask of you all, though, that you row me and my men to Minas Tirith ere you depart where you will. The very fate of Gondor hangs upon us reaching the City in time."

He gazed at Beren and his fellows and his gaze was like no other, both kindly and compelling. The fear left them and they cried out "Long live Aragorn, son of Arathorn!"

Gladly Beren rowed those last few leagues. He would follow this man to the very bounds of Mordor.

 
The Ties that Bind by lindahoyland

The Ties that Bind by Linda Hoyland

Rated T for mild violence

Disclaimer: These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

With thanks to Raksha and Deandra for editorial assistance.

Written for the Teitho "Bonds" contest where it was unplaced.

"Blest be the tie that binds

Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds

Is like to that above." – John Fawcett 1782

"The Crossed Swords" was tavern of somewhat dubious repute. Captain Thorongil usually strode past it without a second glance. Tonight, though, he espied three of his men making their way within.

Thorongil paused. They made an unlikely trio. The eldest, Galion, was something of a rogue, tolerated by Thorongil only because of his exceptional skills with the sword and dagger. The other two were Finarfin, a somewhat plodding fellow and father of five children, and Edrahil, a country boy, who had only joined Thorongil's Troop a few weeks before.

Thorongil had always believed it was up to his men to spend their free time as they chose, but made an exception to that rule when it concerned the new recruits. Unwary young lads away from home for the first time could easily get into trouble. The men had been paid earlier that day and knowing Galion, he would not put it past him to devise some scheme to persuade his companions to buy his drinks.

There were reports to be written at his lodgings, but Thorongil decided that they could wait. There would be no harm in enjoying a pint of ale first and keeping a discreet watch on his men at the same time. They were the first company in Gondor he had been given charge of and he took his responsibilities seriously, especially towards such as Edrahil, a lad almost young enough to be his son.

Thorongil entered the inn together with another soldier, who was dressed in the livery of the Captain General's men. He found a seat in a secluded corner from whence he could observe his men without being seen. If all were well, he would quickly finish his drink and leave without them ever being aware of his presence. He ordered a mug of ale. It was watery stuff of poor quality and Thorongil sipped it without enthusiasm.

Several others joined the trio of his men. His sharp hearing overheard Galion say to his companions, "You're in luck tonight lads, there's a game on. Here's your chance to strike it rich."

"What sort of game?" asked Finarfin.

"Dice," said Galion.

"Isn't that against the law?" asked Edrahil. "I thought Lord Ecthelion had banned gaming with dice for us soldiers."

Galion laughed. "What Lord Ecthelion doesn't know won't hurt him, or us either."

Another man at the head of the table took out the dice and called for bets.

Thorongil sighed. The fools! The Steward had recently issued a decree forbidding gambling as bad for morale. Cheating was rife and fights often broke out in gambling dens.

Thorongil rose from his table and strode over to where his men were sitting. "Galion, Finarfin, Edrahil," he said sternly. "You should know that you will be in serious trouble if you are caught. You could be thrown in the dungeons, not to mention squandering your hard-earned wages. Finarfin, you have five small mouths to feed, your wife would not be happy if you gambled their food away. Edrahil, your mother is relying on you to support her with your pay."

Edrahil leapt to his feet and saluted. "Captain Thorongil! Sir!" He looked scared out of his wits.

"I'm not here to punish you, lad, just give a friendly word of advice. I suggest you all leave here with me now."

Edrahil took a step towards the captain, Finarfin also made to rise, but Galion remained obdurately in his place.

Suddenly the door of the inn burst open and several guards burst in and hastened towards Thorongil and his men. "You are all under arrest on the orders of the Captain General!" the sergeant in charge cried.

"We weren't doing anything wrong," Galion protested in a sullen tone.

"Gambling is prohibited under the decree of the Lord Steward," said the sergeant. "Now come along quietly."

"My men were invited to take part in a game but they decided against it," said Thorongil. "No law has been broken."

"That's for the magistrate to decide," said the captain. "You'll most likely get thirty days in the dungeons then demotion to the ranks. Shame on you, Captain, for setting such a poor example!"

"The Captain wasn't p- playing," said Edrahil, stuttering slightly with fear. "He was ordering us to leave."

"That is the truth," said Thorongil. He drew himself up to his considerable height towering over the sergeant. "No crime has been committed. Now let us leave and go about our duty of defending Gondor."

"You were caught red-handed at a gaming table," said the sergeant. "You are coming with me." He gestured to his men who took out ropes and began to bind the man who had been holding the dice.

Galion made a run for the door closely followed by Finarfin. One of the soldiers raced after him in hot pursuit, but Galion kicked over a chair in the path of his pursuer, who stumbled and lost his footing. Galion and Finarfin fled into the night. Most of the other customers took advantage of the confusion to vanish into the alleyways surrounding the inn.

"We will catch them later," the sergeant said grimly. "No matter. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Hold out your hands, Captain Thorongil."

"I demand to be taken to the Steward," said Thorongil. "I have done nothing wrong."

"You're not binding the Captain," said Edrahil.

"Silence, you impudent boy!" cried the sergeant.

"But he's innocent!"

"I said silence!" There was a resounding thwack as he dealt Edrahil a savage blow to the ribs. The boy gave a cry and crumpled to the floor, hitting his head as he fell.

"How dare you treat one of my men thus?" cried Thorongil.

The sergeant's only reply was to deal the Captain a similar blow, but Thorongil ducked and avoided the full force of it.

The sergeant gestured to his men, "Bind them and take them away."

"The boy needs a healer," Thorongil protested.

"Nothing wrong with him that sobering up in the dungeons won't cure," said the sergeant.

Thorongil made no attempt to resist as his weapons were taken and he was bound alongside Edrahil.

000

Thorongil was forcibly marched towards the dungeons while a semi- conscious Edrahil was half dragged, half carried along by the guards. Thorongil's protests at the boy's treatment were ignored.

The jailor stared when they reached the prison "Surely it can't be-?" he gasped.

"Yes, it is the great Captain Thorongil caught red- handed in a common gambling den!" said the sergeant. "Lock him up securely until he and his accomplice can be brought before the magistrate."

The jailor looked taken aback but did as he was bidden. He placed the man who had been running the dice game in a crowded cell full of rowdy prisoners. To Thorongil's relief, he and Edrahil were placed alone together in a smaller cell. In the near darkness, he could just about make out that it was bare apart from a pile of straw and a bucket in one corner. The sergeant threw them both inside and Thorongil heard his footsteps together with those of his men clattering along the stone passageway and receding into the distance.

As the door clanged behind him, Thorongil sank down on the straw beside Edrahil and took a deep breath. If there was one thing he truly disliked, it was confined spaces. Maybe it was because he had been brought up in Rivendell's spacious halls then roamed the wilds of Eriador and the Plains of Rohan. He sighed. Maybe he should not have sought out the land of his ancestral throne. He had only dwelt in Gondor for two years, but Ecthelion's heir, Denethor, had hated him from the moment they had laid eyes on each other. He had no idea why as there was no way that Denethor could have guessed his true identity. Maybe it was because Ecthelion had taken a liking to him and Thorongil returned that regard. He sensed that the old man was lonely and the burden of rule weighed heavily upon him. Thorongil suddenly remembered the soldier wearing the uniform of the Captain General's men who had entered the tavern with him. Denethor was forever seeking ways to discredit him. Doubtless, the man was one of his spies. Thorongil had noticed that he had left once he got up to join his men, but had thought nothing of it.

Beside him, Edrahil moaned. Thorongil was troubled about the boy. He had been brutally hit then fallen on to a hard stone floor. If only his hands were free so that he could at least examine him.

Just then, he heard a jangling of keys and the jailor, holding a lantern, entered the cell. The man looked troubled. "I'm sure there's been some mistake, Captain Thorongil, sir," he said. "My brother is in your troop and he thinks the world of you, he does, sir. Is there anything I can do for you, sir, while all this is being sorted out?"

"Could you untie me, please, so that I can tend to my man?" said Thorongil. "I give you my word I will not try to escape. I have need of light, a blanket and clean water and then writing materials."

The jailor scratched his head thoughtfully. "I can bring you a candle and some water, but writing materials and a blanket will have to wait until the morrow, sir, as I've none here and I dare not leave the prisoners unguarded to fetch some. I will loose your bonds now."

He untied Thorongil and scurried off. Thorongil felt the circulation painfully return to his hands. He rubbed them together while he waited for the jailor to return. At least it seemed he had found a friend in this grim place.

A little while later, the jailor returned carrying a pitcher of water with a pewter cup and a candle.

"I fear this boy could be badly injured," said Thorongil. "He should be in the Houses of Healing."

"A healer comes each morning to the prison," said the gaoler. "If he is not better by the morrow, the healer will decide if he needs to be moved. I'm sorry I can't help more, sir, but my children will surely go hungry if I lose my job. Please shout, sir, if you need anything else." He set the candle in a sconce in the wall.

Thorongil waited until he had left then untied Edrahil. He began to examine the lad, who was developing an egg- sized lump on the back of his head from where he had fallen when the sergeant had hit him. Thorongil pulled aside Edrahil's tunic. Already a spreading bruise was forming on his side. Thorongil carefully felt the boy's ribs. At least two were broken. Edrahil stirred and moaned, calling out for his mother in his pain and confusion. Thorongil murmured soothing words to him.

"Feel sick!" Edrahil suddenly cried as he regained full consciousness.

Thorongil grabbed the bucket and supported the boy while he retched violently.

At last, he ceased and stared at Thorongil in confusion. "What happened, sir? Where are we?"

"In the dungeons," Thorongil replied. He held a cup of water to Edrahil's lips. The boy sipped it then lay back on the straw. "We were arrested for playing dice."

"Not fair, sir, didn't even play. Hurts, everywhere hurts." He started to shiver violently.

Thorongil was relieved the boy knew who he was. He picked up the candle and held it in front of Edrahil's face. The pupils focussed on the light and constricted. Edrahil blinked "Light hurts, please, sir."

"You have a concussion and broken ribs. That is why you are hurting." Thorongil felt relieved that the boy seemed to be regaining his senses, but he was deeply concerned about him. He needed to be in a warm comfortable room in the Houses of Healing not this cold damp cell. He unfastened his cloak, flinching as he did so. He has escaped the worst of the blows, but would still most likely be covered in bruises as result of the sergeant's brutality.

Thorongil draped his cloak around Edrahil and lay down beside him. He placed a comforting arm around the boy's shoulders.

"The others, sir?" Edrahil asked after a few moments.

"They fled," said Thorongil.

"Troop has bonds, should stick together," muttered Edrahil.

"Soldiers should indeed stick together," Thorongil replied. His thoughts strayed to the others of his troop. They ranged from hardened warriors like Galion to untried country boys like Edrahil, but loyalty to Gondor and defending her from her enemies had forged strong ties between very different men. All save Galion, Thorongil thought grimly. He was loyal to no one save himself. Thorongil inwardly berated himself for not dismissing the man long ago. As for Finarfin, Thorongil felt more pity than anger. The man had come to his senses over playing dice, only to face being thrown in the dungeons. If he had not already been caught, his captain would say nothing that might help the guards capture him. He could only hope that Finarfin's wife and children would not suffer too much, as result of what after all, had been a minor transgression. They lived in a remote village, where hopefully Finarfin could earn a living working in the fields if he remained undetected.

He could not help but be disappointed that Finarfin had abandoned his comrades. He had hoped the bonds of loyalty between members of his troop would have been stronger. A disreputable tavern was hardly a battlefield, though, and while Finarfin was far from the most intelligent of Thorongil's men, he had always fought bravely alongside his fellows.

Edrahil shifted uneasily beside him.

"I wish I had something to give you for the pain," said Thorongil. He gave Edrahil another drink then held his hand a few inches above the boy's injured side and head, attempting to use his innate abilities to ease his pain.

After a few minutes, Edrahil spoke again, this time much more coherently.

"I am well enough now, sir. What will happen to now us, sir? How long will we be locked up here?"

"It depends on the magistrate, Edrahil. It is my understanding of the law that only repeat offenders are thrown in the dungeons for long. "

"My mother will be so disappointed in me," Edrahil said sadly. "And the cobbler's lass won't walk out with me again. And I've let you down, sir, I'm sorry."

"We all make mistakes, lad." Thorongil tried to sound comforting. At least a lowly recruit could not be demoted, while he would be stripped of his captaincy and most likely thrown out of Gondor as an undesirable. The irony of it all when he was the rightful heir to the Silver Crown! Maybe it was a mistake to have come to Gondor at all. He should have stayed in the North with his own people. Gandalf, though, had counselled him to broaden his horizons and the wizard was usually right. It seemed, though, that this time he had made a mistake.

"Sir?"

"Edrahil?"

"They won't just forget about us will they?"

"No, lad, they won't. And the jailor is a decent man. Now try to get some rest."

"Yes, sir."

The boy needed little persuasion and Thorongil felt him relax beside him with the ease of the young. Best that he should sleep and gain some respite from his troubles. He would have to be woken at frequent intervals after a blow on the head, but he could rest for the time being.

Thorongil knew he should blow out the candle to save it, but could not yet bring himself to do so yet. Had Edrahil not been curled up alongside him, he would have been pacing the tiny cell. He had cherished such high hopes of winning renown through great deeds in Gondor and now he would be disgraced even though he had done nothing wrong.

He heard footsteps approaching the cell. He recognised the jailor's tread, but now there were several others with him. Armed men by the sound of their clanking weapons. Thorongil felt a rising sensation of panic. He had no weapon with which to defend himself and the injured boy. The marching feet drew nearer.

"What is the meaning of this?" Thorongil was startled to hear the familiar voice of the Steward. Ecthelion sounded very angry. Thorongil's spirits sank even lower. It was almost unheard of for the Steward to visit the dungeons.

"Why is Captain Thorongil locked in the dungeons?

"The sergeant who brought him here said he was caught playing dice, my lord," replied the gaoler.

"What nonsense!" snapped Ecthelion. "Thorongil isn't such a fool as to waste his pay gambling, and even if he were, only repeat offenders should be thrown in the dungeons. Why don't these guards use their common sense? Were they my son's men?"

"Yes, my lord."

"My son's a good boy but he can be over zealous at times in his desire to uphold military discipline. Ridiculous, though, to have my best captain locked up when he should be out defending Gondor! Now unlock the cell at once and release my captain."

The cell door swung open. Thorongil scrambled awkwardly to his feet.

"I must apologise for the way you have been treated, my friend. Are you injured?"

"Nothing but a few bruises, my lord, but Edrahil here has a concussion and broken ribs. He needs to be in the Houses of Healing."

Ecthelion turned to the guards with him. "Go and fetch a stretcher and see that this boy is taken to the healers immediately."

The men hurried to do the Steward's bidding.

Ecthelion peered at the still sleeping Edrahil. "Valar be praised that your man told me what had happened tonight."

"My man?" Thorongil could still hardly believe this sudden and unexpected change of fortune.

"Yes, Finarfin, I think the fellow's name was. He came to me when I was taking my usual stroll by the White Tree before retiring for the night and said you had been arrested for playing dice when in fact you were ordering your men not to play. The fellow looked half scared out of his wits, but I assured him he would not be punished so long as he was not caught gambling again. The other fellow who was with you will be severely dealt with if he is caught. From what your man told me it seems he might have been in league with the scoundrel behind much of the illegal gambling in taverns."

"I am certain Finarfin will never go near a gambling den again, my lord. He was about to leave the inn, as was Edrahil, when we were arrested. Galion was the ringleader who tried to lead his fellows astray."

"Now let us leave this place," said Ecthelion firmly. "Go and get something to eat and bathe, Thorongil. You are excused duty on the morrow, but I shall expect a full report the day afterwards. I intend to see that sergeant who injured your man is disciplined."

"If I may, my lord, I should like to first see my man settled in the Houses of Healing."

"Of course, my friend, but then you must have a thought for yourself."

"I will, my lord, and thank you."

000

The next day, Thorongil awoke feeling stiff and sore. When he dressed, he discovered a large spreading bruise. He had fared lightly compared to poor Edrahil, though. He applied a liberal application of salve to his injury then hastened to break his fast.

He then set out for the Houses of Healing to visit Edrahil. The boy had been sleepy and confused when he had left him the previous night and would no doubt welcome a familiar face. He was also anxious how the lad was faring.

He found the young soldier sitting up in bed looking thoroughly alert but utterly miserable.

"How are you feeling this morning, Edrahil?" Thorongil asked.

"Much better, sir, thank you. The healer said I should soon recover. But will they send me back to prison, sir? My mother will be so upset! I so wanted her to be proud of me."

"And so she will be, lad. The Steward assured me you are not in any trouble as long as you don't frequent gambling dens in future."

"Never again, sir! I promise."

"I trust you to keep your word." Thorongil smiled. "I think you will find too that the ale is of better quality in more respectable establishments than The Crossed Swords."

Just then Finarfin appeared. He started when he saw Thorongil and made as if to leave. Thorongil ordered him to remain.

"That was a very brave thing you did yesterday, going to the Steward," said Thorongil, clapping the man heartily on the shoulder.

"Well, I couldn't leave you and Edrahil in the dungeons, sir," said Finarfin. "We soldiers should stick up for one another."

"We should indeed," said Thorongil. "The ties that bind true-hearted soldiers together are like the bonds between brothers that no man can sever."

A/n. In my head canon Thorongil is in charge of two different troops while he is in Gondor. My stories "Full of Surprises," "Lavender's Blue" and "Voice in the Night" feature the second group of men.


The Stuff of Life by lindahoyland

Title: The Stuff of Life
Author Name: Linda Hoyland

Prompt: ""There the air was cool and there wayfarers in summer would rest and drink of the cold water." (Children of Húrin)

Summary: Aragorn and Halbarad search for water on a hot day.

Rating: PG

Warnings: none

Beta: none

The sun burned down mercilessly upon the two Rangers who trudged wearily along the dusty road.

Halbarad paused to take a swig from his water bottle. "It is almost empty," he said with a deep sigh.

"So too is mine," said Aragorn. "We had better go in search of fresh supplies. It means we will be late returning to camp, but no matter. We need water in this heat."

"A detour will be more than worthwhile if we can get out of the sun," said Halbarad. "I cannot recall it so hot in June before. I hope this is not some devilish new trick of the Enemy!"

"I think not," said Aragorn. "Any extremes of weather that we experience, the Elves have encountered countless times before and worse! In any case, Orcs flee from the sun while some decent folk actually enjoy heat waves, though why, I have no idea! Only blizzards do I like less than the heat!"

The two men laughed ruefully, remembering the recent harsh winter when Aragorn had almost been buried in a snowdrift.

"We should get off the road," said Aragorn. "There ought to be a spring somewhere in these woods."

"A few more years as a Ranger and you will know the exact location of every water source for miles around," said Halbarad. "Come, I will show you where the nearest stream is."

"Presuming it hasn't dried out in this heat!"

"It is fed by an underground stream," said Halbarad. "It never dries up." He plunged into the trees and set off like a hound following a trail.

The sweat poured down Aragorn's face as he fought his way through the thicket in pursuit of his cousin. "Is there not a more accessible stream nearby that experienced Rangers like you are aware of?" asked Aragorn.

"Stop grousing, cousin, you will thank me in a few moments. This water is worth battling the undergrowth to reach," said Halbarad.

The trees suddenly thinned out and the two men found themselves in a woodland glade. A stream trickled along mossy banks adorned with pink campions and golden buttercups.

The two Rangers hurried down to the stream and cupped their hands to drink from it.

"Is anything sweeter than pure fresh water? Nothing makes me more thankful than to quench my thirst with it." Aragorn said a little later after drinking his fill and refilling his water bottle. He now lay sprawled across the bank, watching the birds flittering in the treetops surrounding them. A few sunbeams danced across the stream illuminating the wings of the darting dragonflies and making the water sparkle.

"When you are King you will have fine wines to drink every day," said Halbarad. "You will forget to savour water."

"Wine cannot quench your thirst on a hot day like water can," said Aragorn. "Nor can wine look like diamonds sparkling in the sunlight. I wonder if even the Simarils appeared so fair?"

"You are master of Elven lore, not I," Halbarad said matter of factly. "I would imagine, though, that to a thirsty man that no jewel could compare with water."

Aragorn trailed his hand in the water, a thoughtful look upon his face. "Men and Elves have fought and killed over jewels," he said. "Yet what is there in Arda more precious than water? It is the very stuff of life."

Wishing my friends in the USA a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Desert Skies by lindahoyland

Author Name: Linda Hoyland

Prompt: Suns...plash! by Mirach


Summary: Aragorn loses his way in the desert.

Rating: PG13

Warnings: angst

Author's Notes: I refer to other stories I have written in this story. though it can be read on its own.

“The Gift of Tongues” introduces Fardil

“East is East” explains the ritual markings.

http://lindahoyland.yolasite.com/the-gift-of-tongues.php
http://lindahoyland.yolasite.com/east-is-east.php

With thanks to Raksha


The sun blazed down mercilessly. Even the traditional head covering that Aragorn wore provided little protection from its searing heat. He raised his water bottle to his parched lips in the hope that few drops might yet remain. It was empty and as dry as the desert that surrounded him. How he hated this bleak unforgiving landscape.

He should have paid heed to Fadil’s warning that the desert was no place for a man not born and bred in this unforgiving land. He had heard tales of the nomadic tribes who dwelt there, though and  wanted to meet them and learn something of their beliefs and customs.

Many things he had discovered in Harad had surprised him, not least the diversity of the folk who dwelt there. Like most Men of the West he had believed the Haradrim to be nothing but a savage race of devoted Sauron worshippers. Some indeed were like that, but the public sacrifices to the Dark Lord were poorly attended. It seemed that Harad was a culture of many tribes, some of whom followed Sauron while others followed a more ancient religion, of which he had been able to discover very little. That was hardly surprising, as veneration of any other lord save Sauron earned the worshipper the cruel penalty of sacrifice upon one of Sauron's public altars.

After dwelling for several months with Fadil and his household, he was certain that the merchant was no Sauron worshipper. He always made some excuse not to attend the public acts of worship. Who or what the merchant did revere, he had no idea as he had only once heard him say, “Lord and Lady protect us!” under his breath when a rowdy group of soldiers threatened to overturn his booth in the market place.

Aragorn knew his mind was wandering and he needed to concentrate. Fadil’s maps had shown an oasis somewhere nearby, but it was easy to lose one’s way in this trackless desert, even for one as skilled in following a trail as Aragorn. He concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, but it grew ever harder. He felt as if his head would explode, while his limbs felt increasingly weak and reluctant to obey him. He knew if he did not find water and shade soon he would die. An ignominious ending for the heir of Elendil to survive countless battles only to die as result of indulging a foolish whim.

Was that a gleam of water on the horizon or a mirage of the heat? His befuddled brain could no longer make sense of what he was seeing. Aragorn stumbled and fell. Overhead the vultures reeled as if expecting to make a meal of him in the near future. He shuddered. He painfully dragged himself upright only to fall again. He could go no further. He thought sadly of his mother and of Arwen and of the green lands of the North. Then he knew no more.

000

Something cold and wet against his face and neck roused Aragorn from his swoon. He opened his eyes to behold a small group of men and women together with three camels. One of the women clutched a baby. Aragorn struggled to sit up. One of the men held a water skin to his lips. He swallowed greedily.

The group were engaging in an animated discussion. Aragorn knew enough of the language to make out what they were saying, though the dialect was strange to him.

“We should take him with us, as the Lord and Lady command we show kindness to wayfarers,” said the one who had given him water.

“Mind your speech, Mohsin,” said the woman with the baby. “He could be an enemy who would destroy us all. Leave him with a water skin or two and let him find his own way.”

“The sacred law of hospitality demands that we care for him, wife,” said Mohsin.

“We can soon find out if he serves the Lord of Gifts,” said another man.

“That would shame him,” said Mohsin.

The man ignored him and strode over to Aragorn. Before Aragorn could protest, he pulled Aragorn’s robe aside and gazed intently at the flesh above his heart.

“Junaid!” protested Mohsin.

“He is too far gone to know what we are doing,” said Junaid. “He is unmarked by the Lord of Gifts. Help me get him on to one of the camels.”

Aragorn swooned again as the men dragged him towards the beast.

000

When Aragorn next regained consciousness, the glaring sun had been reduced to a great red ball while the sky was no longer blue but a vivid hue of orange. He found he was lying beneath a gnarled olive tree, his head propped up with a makeshift pillow. A few feet away was a small lake, filled from a running spring which bubbled up from the rocks. Sheep and goats grazed around the shores of the lake. He could smell meat roasting. When he raised his head higher and looked around him, he could see the people were gathered around a fire. The woman whom he had seen earlier noticed he was awake and came over towards him, carrying a water skin. He eyed it greedily.

Aragorn remembered his manners to use the correct greeting that Fadil had taught him. “Greetings, fellow traveller, may the sun never burn your eyes!”

She replied “Greetings, fellow traveller, may you always dwell near an oasis!” She then handed Aragorn the water skin. This time, he had the strength to hold it himself, but he was still dreadfully thirsty.

“You are safe now, fellow traveller,” said the woman. “You were foolish to wander alone in the desert. It was fortunate that my companions and I came upon you when we did or the carrion birds would have been picking over your bones by now. We were seeking a camel that had strayed, instead we found you.”

Aragorn nodded dumbly somewhat surprised at her bluntness. It seemed that the nomads did not waste time on honeyed words

“I am Rana and these are the brothers and sisters of my tribe,” said the woman. “You are welcome to share our meal if you feel strong enough to join us.”

“I thank you, mistress,” said Aragorn. “May the sun never dazzle your eyes! I am called Belzager.”  He smiled at her, wondering why her name sounded oddly familiar.

Mohsin came over to join his wife. He smiled at Aragorn, revealing surprisingly white teeth. “I am glad to see you much recovered, fellow traveller. May the sun never burn you!” he said. “What paths are you travelling?”

“I desired to see the desert before returning to my home in Umbar,” said Aragorn. “I was foolish to underestimate its might. I thank you for your care and hospitality. May you always dwell in a shady oasis!”

Mohsin nodded gravely. “A man needs to be born and bred in these parts to truly understand the desert,” he said. “Even then, no wise man attempts to cross its vastness alone. My people and I are travelling towards the Great Road where we will meet with others of our tribe. You are welcome to come with us.”

“I will gladly accept your offer,” said Aragorn. “May the sun never dazzle your eyes!” He shivered slightly. Now the sun was setting, the air swiftly grew chill.

“Come eat with us and sit by the fire,” said Mohsin.

Aragorn still felt unsteady on his feet. He needed to be helped to a place near the fire by Mohsin and Rana. About a dozen adults were clustered around the fire and several children. They all greeted him courteously. Rana served him a meal of stewed goat and some kind of beans, followed by juicy dates for a dessert.

When the moon rose, the group all got to their feet and raised both their arms heavenwards.

“Gracious Lord and Lady, shine thy light upon us and guide us along safe pathways through the desert!” intoned Hohsin.

Aragorn felt a sudden thrill of understanding. The folk in this land who shunned the Dark Lord, worshipped the moon! It made perfect sense, as the moon’s light was gentle and benevolent compared to the searing sun. Then suddenly he realised where he had heard Rana's name before. It sounded very like 'Rána,' the old name that the Noldor used for the moon. He suddenly felt far less homesick. The manner in which she and her people worshipped the moon reminded him of the way the Elves venerated the stars. Maybe Lady Star- Kindler had watched over him this day, strange through the stars were in this place. He offered up a silent prayer of thanks to her. The desert sky was alight with countless twinkling stars and the silver orb of the full moon. This land was harsh but it also possessed a a majestic grandeur which gave it a unique beauty.

A/n Written for a BTME prompt last March and posted now to help readers escape the cold for a little while!


Room at the Inn by lindahoyland

B2MeM Challenge: Pride.
"They come from Mordor,' said Strider in a low voice. 'From Mordor, Barliman, if that means anything to you.”
Format: short story
Genre: angst
Rating: PG
Warnings: none
Characters: Barliman Butterbur, Frodo, Aragorn 
Pairings: none
Summary: Barliman Butterbur is a conscientious innkeeper who tries to look after all his guests.
With thanks to Raksha

Disclaimer: The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story.

Barliman Butterbur believed that he had every right to be proud of “The Prancing Pony”. He knew that he served the finest ale for miles around to his customers, together with good honest home cooking. His rooms were comfortable and he tried to make all his guests feel at home. He even had special Hobbit rooms for his smaller customers to stay in.

Mr. Butterbur tried hard to make all his guests feel welcome; even the unpleasant Bill Ferny and those odd Southrons who came in sometimes. He even served Rangers, such as that mysterious Strider fellow, who was in his common room tonight. Truth to tell, he found Strider a bit intimidating with his grimness and those fierce grey eyes of his , but he could tell a right good tale when he had a mind to and after all, a Ranger’s coin was as good as any other.

Barliman couldn’t say, though, that he was happy about those queer fellows in black that had been asking questions of late. He was mighty glad that they he’d slammed the door on them when they came asking questions about “Baggins”, whoever he might be. The name seemed vaguely familiar somehow. Had something slipped his mind he was supposed to remember? He hoped if it had done that it wasn’t anything important. They gave him the shudders, those black men did, and poor Nob’s hair stood right on end at the sight of them. The dogs made a right racket and the geese too, while his cat had emitted blood-curdling yowls. Animals can sense if there’s something wrong about a fellow, or so his old mother always used to say and she was usually right about most things.

The Ranger, Strider, had been asking questions too. The Pony hadn’t been so full in many a moon. Four Hobbits from the Shire had just turned up and it was a long time since any of those had ventured as far as Bree. Thank Goodness, he had the special Hobbit sized rooms he could offer them!

Suddenly, Mr. Butterbur was called into the common room by a group of customers claiming that one of the Shire Hobbits, a Mr. Underhill, had  gone and vanished into thin air! Now Butterbur had seen a few queer things in his life, but he knew that folks didn’t just go and vanish like that! The folk making such wild claims must have drunk a bit too much of his best ale or something.

Mr. Butterbur hurried into the common room and found Mr. Underhill there as large as life. He hadn’t vanished at all. The innkeeper warned the Hobbit good- naturedly that he ought to give notice in future if he wanted to do conjuring tricks. Now that put Butterbur to mind of something. Then it came back to him: Old Gandalf’s letter was addressed to a Mr. Baggins and the old Wizard had asked him to look out for Hobbits from the Shire, especially one who was travelling as Mr. Underhill! Gandalf would turn him into a toad for certain for this, Barliman thought, if he ever learned what had happened. It must three months ago or so now that the wizard had asked him to deliver the letter and it had clean gone out of his mind. Well, he supposed he’d better give it to Mr. Baggins, who called himself Mr. Underhill now and do his best to make amends.

Barliman picked up the letter, took a deep breath, and went with Nob to take candles to the parlour and give the letter to Mr. Underhill, or Baggins, or whatever his name really was.

The stout little fellow was annoyed, not surprisingly, but Barliman did his best to explain about how he came to forget about delivering the letter and how Gandalf had feared that Mr. Baggins might be in trouble and had asked Barliman to help him, which he’d promised to do. He also told them about those creepy black fellows who had been hanging around asking questions, which he wondered might be something to do with the trouble old Gandalf hinted about.

It was then the Ranger suddenly appeared, looming out of a corner, and nearly making him jump out of his skin. They were creepy folk too when he thought about it. Why had this Ranger asked him earlier about Mr. Baggins too? Was he in league with the queer black men in the long cloaks?

Butterbur felt he should warn the little master that taking up with a Ranger was not a good idea. You just couldn’t trust such strange wandering folk you knew nothing about.

The Ranger’s reply was tart and stung him.

'Then who would you take up with?' asked Strider. “A fat innkeeper who only remembers his own name because people shout it at him all day. Will you go with them and keep the black men off?”

Barliman reacted with horror. Well he couldn’t leave the Pony, could he? Who would look after it? He’d let Mr. Baggins stay here for a while if that would help. And who were these black men in any case? Where did they come from and what did they want?

Mr. Baggins started to give him an explanation of sorts, but the Ranger interrupted.

'They come from Mordor,' said Strider in a low voice. 'From Mordor, Barliman, if that means anything to you.”

Mordor! Barliman turned pale and gripped the table in front of him. He didn’t know much about Mordor, but the very name struck terror in his heart. He’d heard it was a place full of fire and brimstone where evil things dwelled that might venture forth in search of the unwary and carry them off to that dread place.

Mr. Baggins noticed his dread and asked if he still wanted to help. Of course he did. He was mighty scared, but Mr. Baggins was under his roof and he was right proud of the way the Pony looked after its guests. But how could he help against the forces of Mordor?

“'Not much, Barliman, but every little helps,” said the Ranger. “You can let Mr. Baggins stay here tonight, as Mr. Underhill, and you can forget the name of Baggins, till he is far away.”

Butterbur took a deep breath; well, he could do that sure enough. There was no way he’d throw a guest out into the night, and especially not with those queer black men around! And he always forgot names even when he wasn’t trying to.

He was proud of the Prancing Pony and would look after this Mr. Baggins and his friends, or his name wasn’t Barliman Butterbur!

A/n. Some quotes are taken directly from Tolkien. Barliman refers to the Nazgûl as “black men”. No racism is intended.

Written for BTME13

The Undiscovered Country by lindahoyland

The Undiscovered Country.

B2MeM Challenge: Courage

"Down the swift dark stream you go
Back to lands you once did know..."

Format: ficlet
Genre: angst
Rating: PG
Warnings: canon character death
Characters: Aragorn, Boromir
Pairings: none
Summary: Aragorn prepares Boromir for his final journey

With thanks to Raksha

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. I make no profit from this story.

Aragorn fought to hold back his tears. He had not been greatly close to Boromir, nor especially liked the Man of Gondor. Boromir had been too like to Denethor in his haughtiness without his sire's wisdom.

For all that, his heart was torn asunder by his comrade's passing.

Aragorn recalled the fair babe he had once known; Finduilas' tender love for her child and Denethor's fierce pride in the boy as he grew.

Aragorn closed his eyes and recalled memories of the chubby toddler clutching a tiny wooden sword and running towards his devoted parents. Denethor had been delighted at his heir's early interest in the arts of war, while Finduilas had looked anxious and haunted, as if she foresaw that her son would one day fall in battle.

Ecthelion, too, had doted upon his grandson, delighted that the succession of the House of Húrin seemed guaranteed. In repose, Boromir had resembled his grandsire and did so even more so in death.

Aragorn wept afresh. He had betrayed Ecthelion once by departing without leave, sending a letter instead of making a proper farewell. Now he felt as if he had again betrayed the man who had been both lord and friend to him. As Ecthelion now welcomed Boromir beyond the circles of the world, what must he think of his trusted Captain Thorongil, who had led Ecthelion's beloved grandson to his doom?

Alas for the House of Húrin, so sadly diminished! Now all that remained were Denethor and Faramir, the younger brother of whom Boromir had spoken so fondly. What manner of a man was Denethor's second son? Did even still draw breath in these dark times? If he yet lived, he would wait in vain beside his father for his brother's return. Aragorn could pity Denethor now. It had long grieved him that he had no son and heir of his own, but how much worse to have one torn from you! A son should not die before his father.

Aragorn put such sombre thoughts to the back of his mind and forced himself to concentrate on the tasks that needed to be done. Boromir must be properly prepared for his final journey. Aragorn gently washed the blood from the fallen warrior's face and combed Boromir's long dark hair. Beside him in the boat, he placed his helm, and his shattered sword and cloven horn. Around his waist, the golden belt of Lothlórien gleamed, worthy of a king of old.

Together with Legolas and Gimli, he pushed the boat out into the current and watched the Anduin take its fallen son.

Aragorn watched until Boromir vanished from sight on his final journey. The warrior was now discovering the most mysterious and distant realm of all; the realm of death, which no man knows the road to, and yet all men must one day journey to.

What discoveries was Boromir now making? Did he see wonders beyond mortal comprehension and enjoy joyful reunions with those gone before, or did he still sorrowfully lament trying to take the Ring from Frodo? Aragorn could only hope his final smile meant that he was at peace.

Alas that Boromir would see his beloved White City no more, and that no silver trumpets would herald his return.

 
The Way through the Woods by lindahoyland

B2MeM Challenge: Image prompt: Winter Fog and Trees
. /the_winterwitch/13030705/4348/4348_
Format: Ficlet
Genre: horror, hurt/comfort
Rating: PG
Warnings: none
Characters: Aragorn, Halbarad, OMCs
Pairings: none
Summary: Aragorn loses his way in thick, freezing fog.

The fog came down unexpectedly. One moment, Aragorn was trudging determinedly through the snow on his way to the Ranger's meeting place, his mind filled with daydreams, the next he was enveloped in a freezing white blanket.

He cursed inwardly. He had been a Ranger for over a year now. He should have been more alert to his surroundings and seen it coming. What would Master Elrond and the twins have said about such carelessness? He could not recall them ever having given him advice concerning finding his way in fog, though; it was never foggy like this in Rivendell. A fine mist would sometimes hover around the Bruinen, but that was all.

Aragorn concentrated on simply keeping moving. If he stayed onthe path and kept walking towards the North, he would reach his destination. He could see neither sun nor stars, though, and soon he became uncertain in which direction he was heading. He continued moving until he began bumping into trees and bushes. It was hard to see even a short distance ahead. He had never seen anything like this fog. Was it some device of the enemy? It was then he almost collided with a vast pine tree. Strange, he was certain this part of the forest was broadleaved trees. He looked around him, trying to make out indistinct shapes in the fog. The trees he could make out were mostly shaped like pines. Where was he? He could not recall this part of the forest.

It was then Aragorn began to feel frightened. He was hopelessly lost. He could hardly see his own feet in the icy whiteness. Tendrils of mist seemed to wrap clammy fingers around the exposed areas of his skin. Did foul creatures lurk here? He knew he was not far from the Barrow Downs. Did the ancient evil that lingered there reach into this forest? The young man's heart thumped wildly. He knew he should keep moving, but the further he wandered the more hopelessly lost he became.

Maybe he was nearer to the campsite than he thought Aragorn whistled the birdcall, which the Rangers used as a signal, but the fog muffled his voice. He felt as if he were enveloped in a thick freezing blanket. Trying to overcome his fear, he kept on walking; hoping that he would reach a place where the fog was thinner and he could see the way ahead. His hopes were vain, for if anything, the mist seemed to thicken and wrap its tendrils more tightly around him. The damp permeated his many layers of clothing and the woollen fabric felt cold and wet. Completely disorientated, he paused for a moment beneath a great pine. He began to feel very sleepy. Aragorn stamped his feet as he struggled to remain alert. It was growing dark and the forest was utterly still. Not a leaf stirred and no birds sang.

A dark shape loomed out of the mist and he knew no more.

000

"Wake up, come on, wake up!"

Aragorn blearily opened his eyes a slit at the sound of Halbarad's voice. He was cold, so very cold. "Can't get warm," he muttered through chattering teeth.

"Throw more logs on the fire and huddle closer!" Another voice, which he recognised as belonging to Vardamir, the oldest of his patrol.

Aragorn realised there was blissful warmth emanating from either side and in front of him.

"Make him a hot drink, Vardamir," said another voice, this time belonging to Tarcil, a young Ranger who was the proud father of two children and rarely ceased talking about them.

Aragorn forced his eyes open. He was lying in front of the campfire, wrapped in blankets and tightly wedged between Halbarad and Tarcil. The fog still lingered amongst the trees, but it was much clearer here. He noticed that his damp cloak and outer garments had been laid out to dry in front of the fire.

"Here, drink this, it should get some warmth into you, lad," Vardamir thrust a steaming mug into his hands, in his concern forgetting the usual deference he showed the young chieftain. Aragorn did not care. He tried to grasp the mug, but it almost slid from his frozen fingers. Halbarad gripped it and held it for him. Aragorn took a sip. It was soothingly warming. He concentrated on his drink for a few moments then asked, "What happened?"

"That is what we wondered," said Halbarad. "We were sore worried when you failed to arrive at the meeting place."

"I lost my way in the fog," Aragorn said sheepishly.

"A Ranger who gets lost!" Halbarad tut tutted, but he placed a comforting arm around his kinsman's shoulders.

"I know," Aragorn said glumly.

"Cheer up, lad, we've all done it once in our youth," said Vardamir.

"How did you find me?" asked Aragorn.

"When you never arrived at the meeting place, we set out to find you," Tarcil answered. An experienced Ranger can pick up tracks even in thick fog."

"We found you collapsed beneath a great pine tree. You were frozen half solid," Halbarad continued. "We hurried back to the campsite with you to thaw you out. Don't ever do that again, kinsman, you scared us half to death! We feared we had lost you when we came upon you lying so cold and still. You are lucky even the Orcs were not even to be abroad in such weather."

"I fear I still have much to learn," said Aragorn.

"Never fear lad, we will teach you," said Vardamir.

"We'll make a Ranger of you yet," said Halbarad.

Aragorn felt his spirits lifting. The terrors of the fog-shrouded forest seemed remote now. He was finally feeling truly at home amongst these men. It was obvious that they cared about him and not only for what he represented to them. He huddled into the blankets, enjoying the comforting warmth around him and took another sip of his drink.

The Deepest pain by lindahoyland

The Deepest Pain – Linda Hoyland.

Rating T

Aragorn receives his first battle wound.

These characters are J.R. R Tolkien's. I make no money from this story.

Her eyes were like twin stars and her hair darker than a raven's wing while her lips- . Aragorn closed his eyes for a moment. The pain of longing for a maiden so far above him was almost too much to endure. A loud curse startled him out of his reverie.

"My horse has gone lame," said Finrod, the oldest of the group of Rangers. He uttered another curse as he dismounted from the saddle.

"The hoof looks inflamed." Halbarad, who had been riding beside him had also dismounted and was already examining the horse's feet. "He can go no further today." He looked expectantly towards Aragorn.

The young Chieftain sighed. "We are expected in the village tonight, but we have no option but to make camp for the night here."

"I like it not," said Halbarad. "There are Orcs in these parts and our families will be waiting for us."

"I like it not either," said Aragorn. "We can hardly leave Finrod and his horse here alone, though, and travelling with a lame horse once night falls is too dangerous. It leaves us wide open to attack. We will resume our journey at first light tomorrow." Aragorn dismounted in the forest clearing and tethered his horse to a tree. "Halbarad, you and I will gather firewood while the rest of you make camp. Keep a close watch."

As soon as the two men were out of earshot of the others Halbarad said "I am sorry if I spoke out of turn."

"You care only for our safety," said Aragorn. "I hope I have made the right decision. Even after a year of being Chieftain, it is still difficult at times."

Halbarad nodded. "Sometimes, like tonight, you can only choose the least bad option." He stooped to pick up a branch. "Let us hope there are no Orcs lurking in the forest."

"The moon will be almost full." Aragorn closed his eyes for a moment and imagined himself walking hand in hand with Arwen through the gardens at Rivendell. They stopped and gazed up at the silver orb. His hand moved round her waist and she nestled closer to him. Their lips met in a lingering kiss. They tasted of honey or maybe fine, sweet wine."

"Aragorn!" Halbarad's voice jolted him back into the present. "Um, what did you say?"

"You were far away," said Halbarad. "Now you are blushing. Were you thinking perhaps of some lady?"

Aragorn said nothing. He felt his face grow even hotter.

"I knew it!" said Halbarad. "Thinking of fair maidens gathers no firewood, though."

"I am sorry." Aragorn collected himself and resumed gathering fallen branches.

000

Aragorn took the first watch of the night. Once darkness fell, it had grown chilly and he pulled his cloak more closely around himself. The sounds of the night reassured him, the wind in the branches and small animals, wood mice and voles scuttled around in the undergrowth. He wondered what it would be like if Arwen were beside him. Would she be afraid? He would reassure her that he would protect her. She would huddle close to him and rest her head against his shoulder. He would feel her warm breath against his cheek. Maybe he could kiss her? His body ached with longing. An owl hooted in a nearby tree and brought him back to the present. Suddenly, the owl squawked then everything fell silent. Aragorn tensed. He drew his sword and wondered whether or not to wake the others. He was loth to disturb their rest for what was most likely a false alarm. Then his keen eyes picked out shapes moving in the dim light.

He cried out "Orcs, Ambush!" He heard the twang of a bowstring and ducked. It was too late. He felt something hit his shoulder followed by a sharp, searing pain. He fell to his knees, his sword dropping from his hand.

The camp sprang to life. Aragorn could hear shouts. Someone cried "The Chieftain's been injured!"

Hands reached out. He managed to say "Orcs! Leave me and save yourselves!"

He was ignored as the hands dragged him into to the shelter of nearby undergrowth. He feebly tried to protest, but his rescuer took no notice.

"Stop struggling!"

He recognised Halbarad's voice. "Stay hidden!" his kinsman commanded.

Aragorn could only listen to the sounds of battle around him. Through his haze of pain, they sounded far away. Was he dying? Would he never know the pleasure of Arwen's embraces? He had not expected dying to hurt so much. After what seemed an age, the sounds died down. Then hands reached out and pulled him from his hiding place. Aragorn groaned.

"Easy now," said Halbarad. "We need to move you into the light."

"My men? The Orcs?"

"You are the only one with a serious wound. The others are all well apart from a few minor cuts and bruises. We have slain all the Orcs."

"Good." Aragorn closed his eyes. It took a great effort to speak as the pain blurred his thoughts.

"Are you ready? We need to lift you nearer the fire?" Halbarad said.

Aragorn nodded weakly. He raised his head and realised that his kinsman was with Beren, a burly young Ranger from their village. The two men lifted him and began to carry him into the clearing near the fire. He groaned loudly. They gently laid him down on a makeshift bed made from their cloaks.

Beren then knelt beside him and examined the arrow. "I do not have a detailed knowledge of healing," he said. "I do know, though, that this arrow needs to be removed at once."

"Would it not be better to take him to Rivendell?" said Halbarad.

"Orc arrows are filthy, we cannot leave it in him that long," said Beren. "That was how my father died, not of the wound, but the infection it caused."

"Who can remove the arrow then?" asked Halbarad. "The Chieftain is the only experienced healer amongst us."

Finrod rose from where he had been sitting by the fire and came over to them. "I have taken an arrow out of my horse," he said gesturing to where his lame mount was tethered. It did not improve his temper but he is still here and has carried me faithfully until he went lame today."

The three men looked expectantly at Aragorn. The young Chieftain swallowed hard. He had extracted arrows and knew the procedure hurt a great deal. He knew too that he did not wish to die just yet. He gave a reluctant nod. "Do it."

"Have you healing supplies?" asked Halbarad.

"Only a few." He paused to take a couple of deep breaths to push back the pain, then continued, "Was going to Rivendell for more."

Halbarad nodded grimly. There had been all too many in the last few weeks who had needed healing supplies. Not only Rangers wounded in battle, but also those stricken with fevers or victims of accidents.

Beren went over to where Aragorn had placed his pack and brought it to the fireside. Halbarad rummaged inside and brought out some bandages, powdered herbs, a pot of salve and a sharp knife.

Aragorn's eyes went to the knife and he flinched. "Sharp knife of Master Elrond's," he muttered.

"That will suffice," said Finrod.

"Do it quickly," said Aragorn.

Halbarad nodded to Beren and together they held him pinioned to the ground.

"He will need something to bite on," said Finrod. "Otherwise his screams will alert every Orc for miles around to our presence."

"I do not scream," said Aragorn though his voice quavered a little.

"You are made of flesh and blood," said Finrod. "It is no shame." He unfastened Aragorn's belt and placed it in the young Chieftain's mouth.

Aragorn was pale and sweating heavily. Already, the pain in his shoulder was more than he could endure. He dreaded the worse pain that was to come. He bit down on the leather and swallowed hard as Finrod picked up the knife and started to cut away the clothing that covered his shoulder. The knife was so sharp that he hardly felt the cuts to enlarge the arrow wound, but when Finrod started to dig out the barb, great waves of agony tore through his body. He arched and twisted, trying to escape from the cruel blade and the hands that restrained him. Then everything went mercifully black.

When he came to, his shoulder still throbbed painfully. Halbarad was bending over him anxiously while Finrod was bandaging the wound.

"Praise the Valar you are awake!" said Halbarad. "You worried us swooning like that. Do you want a drink?"

Aragorn nodded weakly. He sipped from the water skin Halbarad held to his lips.

"We need to take you to Rivendell," said Halbarad.

Aragorn shook his head wondering what manner of reception he would get there. He had not been on good terms with Master Elrond since his love for Arwen had become known. "I will be well," he said. "I have been injured before, though not in battle." Even as he spoke the words, he wondered why it felt so much worse this time.

"When you were hurt before you had all the lore of Rivendell to help you heal," said Halbarad, as if sensing his thoughts. "Orc arrows are filthy. We cannot risk the wound becoming infected. We need our Chieftain and would not lose you."

"Very well."

Halbarad turned to Finrod and Beren. "Help me get him on my horse. We will ride through the night. There is no time to lose."

The next few hours passed in a blur of pain. Every step the horse took jolted Aragorn's shoulder and increased his agony. He lost count of time and knew not whether he dozed fitfully or swooned again. Then there were lights and voices. Gentle hands lifted him from the horse and carried him within.

"What has happened to you, Estel?" a familiar voice asked.

Aragorn opened his eyes to find Master Elrond bending over him, a goblet in his hand. "Drink this," his foster father commanded. "Drink, then rest."

000

Aragorn opened his eyes and looked around. He was in his old room at Rivendell. His left shoulder was swathed in bandages and his arm in a sling. The searing pain had subsided to a dull ache. He turned his head and saw his mother sitting on a chair beside the bed. She was engrossed in stitching what looked like one of his shirts. She must have heard him stir as she put down her sewing and stood up.

"How do you fare, Aragorn?" she asked, kissing him tenderly on the brow.

Aragorn thought for a moment before answering. "Much better, the pain is bearable now."

"Master Elrond thoroughly cleaned and dressed your wound and set the bone. He does not think there will be any lasting damage."

Aragorn gave a sigh of relief. His eyes then lighted on a large bunch of exquisite blooms in a vase across the room. "You brought me some flowers?"

Gilraen looked troubled. "It was not I, it was Lady Arwen. She sent them with a message that she was sorry you were injured. Doubtless, the lady has a tender heart towards those her father succours. Do not make too much of it."

Aragorn hastily changed the subject. "I am thirsty."

"I will fetch you something to drink." She bustled from the room. As soon as she was gone, the door opened again and Halbarad entered.

Aragorn struggled to sit up. "Thank you, kinsman, you surely saved my life."

Halbarad smiled and clasped Aragorn's hand.

"Are the rest of the men safe?"

"I believe so. I told them to go on to the next village where there is a smith to tend Finrod's horse." His eyes came to light on the flowers.

"Lady Arwen sent them."

Halbarad laughed though not unkindly. "So she is the lady you dream about? Do not deny it. You are blushing like a maiden!"

"She is surely Lúthien reborn!"

"Grandmother says that every one of Isildur's heirs has fallen in love with her. Never fear, you will soon forget her once you meet more women; women who will welcome your suit."

"I will never forget her!" Aragorn said hotly. "I intend to marry her, and please say nothing of this to anyone, including Grandmother."

"Peace," said Halbarad mildly. "You have my word I will say nothing. Alas, the pain of unrequited love is worse than that of any wound."

Aragorn gazed at the flowers. Maybe they were but a kindly gesture, yet they gave him hope.

A/n. Written for the Teitho "Pain" contest where it was unplaced.

 
All Comes to those who Wait by lindahoyland

All Comes to those who Wait

Theme: Waiting

Author's Notes: Some words in the story are taken directly from Tolkien. With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra.

Summary: A healer can only watch and wait as the Black Breath kills his patients.

The familiar characters are the property of the Tolkien estate. This story is written for pleasure, not profit.

The day Tuor had earned the right to wear the healer's robes had been the proudest day of his young life. All the hours of study and hard work were worthwhile once he had the right to call himself a fully qualified healer. He was not just any healer either, but one of the select few who worked at the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith, surely the finest healing houses in all of Middle-earth.

Tuor enjoyed working with his patients and curing them of all manner of infirmities. He basked in their gratitude and that of their families and smiled his thanks for all the countless small gifts bestowed upon him. Usually, they amounted to little more than a dozen eggs from a farmer, but once he had received a bottle of Dorwinion from a lord who was grateful to be cured of his gout.

Of course there were rare times when the best medicine proved futile and the patient died, but even then there was the satisfaction of having done all that he possibly could. He was often invited to funerals by relatives grateful at how he had made their loved ones comfortable during their final days on Arda.

Since war had come to Gondor, the healers' work had greatly increased as the many wounded were brought to the Houses of Healing. Tuor did not greatly enjoy having to amputate shattered limbs, but so doing usually saved the patient. It was all part of the healer's lot. Then there were the minor flesh wounds. The soldiers he treated were thankful to have survived to fight another day. Then sadly, there were the mortally wounded, but even those Tuor could help by easing their pain until their spirits moved beyond the circles of the world.

With the coming of the Black Breath, though, everything had changed. The healers could only look on helplessly as those afflicted fell slowly into an ever deeper dream, and then passed to silence and a deadly cold, and so died.

For those with the Black Breath they could do nothing, only watch and wait. They were now so many they had been forced to tell the folk in the City not to bring any one else suffering from the malady to the Houses until a cure could be found.

Master Tarostar, the Warden averred that never before could he recall a malady that had proved beyond all the Arts and Knowledge of Gondor's healers.

Tuor found this waiting worse than any other, worse even than during the great battle. Then he and his fellows had known what to do, tend the wounded as they arrived in ever greater numbers. There had been no time for thought and reflection, or even for fear as to what would befall if the enemy had overrun the City. Tuor and his fellows had been instructed to offer the patients who were unable to be moved a merciful death, then flee through a warren of secret tunnels into the mountains. They had survived the battle; thanks to the timely arrival of the men of Rohan the City still stood. Gondor had survived to fight another day.

Those stricken with the Black Breath knew nothing of the great victory; as the sun turned west a grey shadow crept over their faces. Their Steward was amongst them and a fair maiden from Rohan who had been found on the battlefield dressed as a man. There was even one of the Perian. What had matters come to that even these small folk were fighting battles?

Old Ioreth, usually a sensible enough woman, had taken to constantly repeating an old rhyme,

"When the black breath blows

and death's shadow grows

and all lights pass,

come athelas! come athelas!

Life to the dying

In the king's hand lying!"

It was a sad day indeed for the Healers when they were driven to such foolishness. Athelas was a fairly useless herb. Old folk might use it to treat a mild headache or to freshen a room, but it had no place in the herbarium of the Houses of Healing. Even more foolish was the talk of kings. It was almost a thousand years since Gondor's throne had been occupied. Tuor thought it was foolish that Gondor still waited for a king who never appeared.

He sighed. It seemed there would not even be a Steward for much longer. He was sorely disappointed in Lord Denethor. He should have been leading the defences, not burning himself alive and trying to burn Lord Faramir too. He should have sent his son to the Houses for treatment. And whatever had he been thinking of, sending his only remaining heir out on such a dangerous mission. Now, Lord Faramir appeared to have developed the Black Breath and would surely draw his last breath sometime today. Then who was going to rule Gondor?

Tuor paced the rooms of the Houses of Healing once more, tending any wounded who were in pain and seeing if the Black Breath victims were still breathing. Two more had died and he gave instructions for their burial. Both were soldiers who did not have any kin in the City.

With a heavy heart, Tuor prepared to keep vigil for the night. The Valar alone knew how many would still be alive by the morning.

Just then, he heard a commotion and went to investigate. The Wizard had arrived and with him were Prince Imrahil and two warriors. One was obviously a man of Rohan from his armour and colouring, the other had dark hair and grey eyes. On his breast, he wore an eagle shaped brooch set with a great green gem.

Tuor was annoyed to see them. Apart from Prince Imrahil, who doubtless wanted to bid farewell to his kinsman, what business did these folk have here disturbing his patients and interrupting the healers? The warriors looked in need of a good wash and could be carrying infection. As for the Wizard, Tuor thought that if he truly were magical, surely he could cure the Black Breath. The last time when Mithrandir had been at the Houses earlier that day, he had been listening to Dame Ioreth's foolish rhymes. Surely any self- respecting wizard would use their powers to escape from Dame Ioreth's babbling!

He wanted to tell the strangers to go away and leave the dying in peace, then stopped himself. Maybe they too had kin here who had been wounded in battle? The Warden was with them, so Tuor swallowed his annoyance and went to tend a soldier with a broken leg who was groaning in pain.

Soon afterwards, Dame Ioreth bustled through the room, almost knocking into Tuor.

"Where are you going and in such a hurry?" he asked her.

"Some Captain from the North wants athelas to treat Lord Faramir," Ioreth replied. "The cheek of the man ordering me around! Who does he think he is. I shall have words with the Warden tomorrow, I shall. Fancy letting a scruffy soldier near Lord Faramir, and laying his filthy hands on him!"

She hurried off, leaving Tuor shaking his head. If the Black Breath wasn't enough to deal with, it seemed that everyone was going mad! Or maybe Dame Ioreth was mistaken. He concentrated on tending his patient.

A little later, Tuor was writing his daily reports when Dame Ioreth came running. " The King has come!" she cried. "Lord Faramir is awake! Come and see!"

Tuor looked at her in alarm. The poor woman had certainly lost her mind. He followed her, though, intent on preventing Ioreth from upsetting the patients. Maybe Lord Faramir had died and that turned the old woman's wits. She always had had a soft spot for him. But why babble on about a King?

Tuor hastened after Ioreth to Lord Faramir's room. To his amazement the Steward was sitting up in bed and smiling.

This is truly a marvel, my lord," said Tuor. "I am glad to see you recovered."

"The long awaited King is come and he has healed me," said Lord Faramir. "He has gone now to heal the others."

Tuor could always feel the wave of excitement filling the Houses of Healing. Where before there had been despair, now there was hope. Voices cried out. "The King is come again indeed. He brings healing in his hands!"

Tuor was lost for words. It seemed that sometimes all did come to those who waited.

What may not bless my waking Eyes by lindahoyland

What may not bless my waking eyes- Linda Hoyland B2MeM Prompt and Path: I love the silent hour of night, For blissful dreams may then arise, Revealing to my charmed sight What may not bless my waking eyes. “ Anne Brontë .Purple Path Format: Short Story. Genre: Romance, adventure Rating: PG Warnings: Very mild sexual content Characters: Aragorn, Halbarad, Butterbur, Arwen,  Pairings:Aragorn/Arwen Creator’s Notes (optional):  Summary:Aragorn and Halbarad seek shelter in a storm.   Feeling cold, stiff and hungry Aragorn slithered out from under the hedge where he had been sleeping and joined Halbarad who was already kindling a fire. Despite wearing warm clothes and huddling together for warmth, the two had hardly slept in the bitter East wind. As the flames shot up, Aragorn reached his hands towards them to warm them. He looked up at the lowering sky. “We need better shelter for tonight as the weather is set to get worse,” he said. Halbarad nodded. ”Had I any coin to spare, I’d wager you whether we were set for rain, snow, sleet or hail.   “Most likely all four,” said Aragorn, putting a pot filled with water on the fire to boil.” This weather is too cold for even Orcs to be abroad.” “I doubt we can reach the Angle before the clouds break,” said Halbarad. “I suggest we make for Bree and try to find shelter there in some deserted outbuilding.” “Butterbur should let us have a room,” said Aragorn. “I have sufficient coin.” “Oh for a warm bed and a good night’s sleep even for one night!” Halbarad sighed. “I wake so often when I sleep under a hedge that I scarce can dream,” said Aragorn. Halbarad laughed. “You miss dreaming! Thus speaks your upbringing in the House of Elrond, kinsman. I miss my mother;s thick goose down quilt toto cover me!” “So do I, so let us go in search of at least a straw mattress!” Aragorn drained the last of the herbal tea he had brewed and playfully clapped Halbarad on the shoulder. The two gathered up their possessions and started off for Bree. They had only gone a few miles when the heavens opened and a mixture of sleet and hail began to fall. The hailstones stung the Ranger’s faces painfully. They quickened their steps. Soon the hail and sleet turned to snow, the flakes falling so thick and fast it was hard to see the way ahead. Luckily, the way to Bree was a straight road so the two Rangers resolutely trudged ahead. There were many travellers on their way to Bree to escape the storm. The Rangers were thankful that for once the Gatekeeper was too preoccupied to insult them and simply let them pass with a glare. It seemed all the travellers were making their way to the Prancing Pony. When Aragorn and Halbarad finally entered they could hardly push their way through the crowded taproom. When Butterbur finally came to serve them, Aragorn ordered two tankards of ale, some stew, and a room for the night. “Ale and stew there is aplenty,” said Butterbur. “Every room is taken though.” The two Rangers visibly sagged. “Can you suggest where else we might stay?” asked Aragorn. Butterbur scratched his head. ”I don’t rightly know. Everywhere will be full on a night like this. It was market day and many folk are in town.” “Could we sleep on the floor by the fire?” asked Halbarad. Butterbur shook his head. “There’s already half a dozen folks doing that and they won’t want to share with no Rangers,” he replied. “So you are sending us out into the freezing night?” Aragorn could not keep the bitterness from his tone.” “It ain’t fit out there for a dog so I reckon it ain’t fit for no Rangers even either,” said the innkeeper. “If you don’t mind horses you can sleep in the stable, but don’t be going and stealing anything, mind!” “Rangers are honest men,” said Aragorn with dignity. ”We thank you for your kind offer.” “I hope I won’t live to regret it,” said Butterbur. “Now I’ve got customers to attend to.” He bustled away. A serving wench brought the two Rangers their food and drink which they devoured with relish. All too soon their mugs were drained and their plates cleared. Butterbur appeared with a lantern and showed them out to the stable. One of the stalls was unoccupied and it was there they prepared to settle down for the night. “Now don’t be going a touching anything or disturbing honest folk in their beds,” admonished Butterbur. He left, taking the lantern with him. The Rangers were left alone in the inky blackness out of which loomed several pairs of gleaming eyes, yellow, gold and green. “What the?” exclaimed Halbarad. “The stable cats,” said Aragorn with a chuckle. “You should be acustomed to Lithui in the dark by now.” “She sleeps in Mother's room,” Halbarad retorted. “At least no rats will disturb our slumbers.” “A bed fit for a King!” said Aragorn. “To think that you should have to sleep in a stable!” said Halbarad glumly. “ How low our people have fallen! You, who are entitled by birth to rule these lands.” “I have known far worse,” said Aragorn. “At least we are warm and dry and the straw is clean. Now let us rest and hope the storm will have passed by the morrow.” He burrowed into the hay and closed his eyes. He could hear occasional sounds from the horses and scuffles as the cats went about their nocturnal hunting. The stable faded and he was in front of a great city, which he recognised as Minas Tirith. Cheering crowds surrounded him and Master Elrond and Gandalf approached. Gandalf carried the crown while Elrond bore the sceptre of the Northern Kings. At his side, walked Arwen wearing a billowing silver garment. “You have prevailed. Now take my daughter with my blessing,” said Elrond. Aragorn was just about to express his joy and gratitude when the scene changed. He was now alone with Arwen in a luxurious bedchamber. Her silver gown had been replaced by an almost sheer white garment which accentuated every beautiful curve of her body. She lay beside him on the bed and pulled him close. “Beloved!” she sighed. “How I have longed for this moment!” Her lips met his and he was filled with a blissful sensation from his crown to his toes. Just then, a horse neighed loudly. Aragorn was just wondering what a horse was doing in the bridal bedchamber when he found himself back in the stable. Halbarad was already abroad and patting a chestnut horse that was craning its neck into their stall. Sunlight streamed through the cracks in the doorway. ”I thought you would sleep the day away,” said Halbarad. “I had not the heart to wake you as by the way you were smiling you were having pleasant dreams.” “Very pleasant,” said Aragorn, reluctantly forcing his mind back to the present. It was hard to leave the delightful images that the dream had conjured in his brain. But until his dreams became reality, in his slumbers he could taste what his heart so yearned for. “Come,” he said. “Let us partake of breakfast at the inn and be on our way while the sun shines on us. We should reach the home ere dusk.”

Things that go Bump in the Night by lindahoyland

B2MeM Prompt and Path: Things that go bump in the night. Purple Path.

Format: Short story.

Genre: Humour, family, animals

Rating: PG

Warnings: None

Characters: Aragorn, Halbarad, Ivorwen, OFCS

Pairings: None

Creator's Notes (optional): Brann is based on both Harry and my late Leo.

Summary: Aragorn finds his holiday far from restful.

Aragorn tossed restlessly. He sighed. He had been looking forward to his patrol duties ending and spending some time under Aunt Inzilbeth's roof rather than sleeping in the open. Sleep, though was proving elusive. Beside him, Halbarad snored loudly. It was so different from his spacious, comfortable room at Rivendell with the large bed to himself and no sound save the distant waterfall to lull him to sleep.

What was that sound in the corner, a scrabbling, and a scuffling? He tried to ignore it and go back to sleep. Minutes passed while the rustling sounds increased and Halbarad's snoring grew louder. Unable to bear it any longer, Aragorn jabbed his cousin in the ribs with his elbow.

"Um?" Halbarad muttered sleepily.

"You were snoring fit to wake the dead."

"I was not."

"And what is that scuffling in the corner?"

"Mice, I assume." Halbarad yawned.

"Mice indoors? We need a cat," Aragorn exclaimed.

Halbarad burrowed deeper under the covers. "We have a cat." The blankets muffled his voice. "Mother is very fond of her."

"I know she is, but she is half blind with hardly any teeth left."

"What of it? She is good company for mother."

"We need a mouser."

"What now? It's the middle of the night!"

"I mean in the morning."

Halbarad's head emerged from under the blankets. "There is an old woman in the village who feeds all the stray cats. No doubt she could find you a good mouser. I don't know what you are fretting about, though, there are mice aplenty in the woods and fields and in the stable where we slept last week."

"That is where they belong!" Aragorn retorted but Halbarad's head was again buried beneath the blankets. Within moments, his cousin was snoring loudly again. The scuffling grew louder. Aragorn feared the sound was now coming from under the bed. What if it were a rat and not a mouse? There had never been any rodents inside the Last Homely House. Master Elrond would have been horrified. Rats and mice spread all manner of diseases.

He had no objection to rodents in the woods and fields. They had every right to make their home there. He was untroubled by their presence when he was wearing thick boots and gloves. He felt very vulnerable lying here in only his nightshirt and drawers. Aunt Inzilbeth would object though if he wore his boots in bed. He thought of donning his socks, but then remembered they were hanging outside on the washing line. Aunt Inzilbeth always insisted on washing his and Halbarad's socks and linens when they returned from patrol.

Aragorn wondered if he should have accepted the offer of the Chieftain's House to live in. Then he thought of the young family who were living there. He could also have chosen to live with Grandmother Ivorwen, but she had sugested he might be happier with some younger company. Therefore, it had been decided it was better for him to stay with his aunt and cousin during the brief respites he had from his duties patrolling the wilds.

The scuffling seemed to have gone quiet for now. Aragorn closed his eyes and finally fell asleep.

000

Early the next morning, Aragorn and Halbarad made their way to Dame Haleth's home at the other side of the village. Aunt Inzilbeth had proved surprisingly easy to convince that there was a need for a second cat. Stroking Lithui, her old grey cat, she said, "Lithui keeps my chambers free of mice, but maybe she needs some help upstairs in the loft. Be sure you find a nice friendly cat that won't upset her.

Everyone in the village knew Dame Haleth as a lover of cats. The lady had never married, preferring to fill her home with a variety of felines as well as feeding all the strays in the village. It was obviously feeding time when Aragorn and Halbarad arrived as a selection of cats in every size and hue were clustered around her doorstep.

"Do you have a good mouser for my mother, Dame Haleth?" asked Halbarad after they bade the lady good morning.

"She wants a sweet natured cat that will not tease Lithui," Aragorn added.

Haleth thoughtfully surveyed the cluster of cats around her ankles. Then she bent down and picked up a large ginger tom. "This is Brann," she said. "He's a proven mouser and the sweetest cat you can find anywhere. I'm loth to see him go, but I know Mistress Inzilbeth will look after him well."

"Thank you," said Aragorn, reaching to take the cat from her. The ginger tom settled in his arms and purred contentedly.

000

That night, Aragorn prepared for bed in an optimistic mood. After inspecting every corner of the chamber, Brann had settled down to sleep at the foot of the bed.

Reassured that no rodents would get past their feline guardian, Aragorn quickly fell asleep. He was lost in pleasant dreams of Master Elrond's fair daughter when a loud crash rudely awakened him. Brann had leapt from the bed and was tearing wildly around the room.

"That cat makes more noise than the mice," observed Halbarad, who was also woken by the din.

A squeak sounded from under the bed.

"At least it sounds as if he is despatching the mice," said Aragorn. Trying to ignore the bumps and thuds, he pulled the blankets over his face and went back to sleep.

Aragorn was awakened again by a thud as Brann landed next to his pillow. Then a paw tapped him on the head. "It's not morning yet," he muttered sleepily, pulling the covers more closely around him.

He was tapped on the head again, this time the paw had claws extended. What felt like a dozen paws pulled at the covers. In the grey light of dawn, he could see a dead mouse on his pillow.

000

Aragorn decided to take advantage of his Grandmother Ivorwen's invitation to spend a few days with her any time he wished. Maybe Brann would have disposed of all the mice by the time he returned to his aunt's.

"So how is your mother?" enquired Ivorwen as they ate dinner together that night.

"She was well when I last received a letter from her," said Aragorn.

"A good girl, my Gilraen, not stubborn like Inzilbeth," said Ivorwen. "I told her she needed a new mouser years ago. She could have had one of my Emig's kittens." She affectionately patted the plump tabby that sat at her feet. "Emig is an excellent mouser."

"I shall sleep peacefully tonight then," said Aragorn.

"As I was saying, your mother was always a good obedient girl. She accepted her destiny."

"Her destiny?"

"To give birth to you, the hope of our people. How it gladdens my heart to have you under my roof this night."

Uncomfortable at this talk of his destiny, Aragorn pleaded weariness and retired to bed.

Exhausted by his lack of the sleep the previous two nights, the young Chieftain quickly fell asleep.

It seemed he had only been asleep a short time when he was awakened by a scratching at the window. Scratch, scrape, scratch.

Aragorn tried to ignore the sounds and burrowed under the covers. The sounds continued. Maybe it was some intruder?

Aragorn wearily clambered out of bed. Clasping his sword in his hand, he cautiously peered out into the moonlit garden. A large branch from the cherry tree in the garden was scraping across the window in the night breeze.

Aragorn sighed both with relief and frustration. He could hardly risk rousing his Grandmother by pruning the offending branch in the moonlight. He passed a restless night and mentioned it to Ivorwen over breakfast.

"Ah, Dirhael's tree!" she exclaimed. "He planted it when we were first wed. I love to hear it tapping against the window. You will soon get used to it."

Before Aragorn could say anything, there was a knock on the door. It was Halbarad.

"Orcs have been spotted near the next village," he said. "We need to go out on patrol at once."

"You poor lads!" exclaimed Ivorwen. "You've hardly had time to rest after your last patrol."

Aragorn struggled to contain his delight as he bade his grandmother farewell. Maybe out in the wilds he might get a good night's sleep.

 
Cat's Tales by lindahoyland
Cats' Tales
B2MeM Prompt and Path: Purple path. Folklore, folk tales, and old wives’ tales

Format: Short story

Genre: Family, humour, tale within a tale.

Rating: PG

Warnings: None

Characters: Aragorn, Halbarad, OFC

Pairings: None

Creator’s Notes : Events directly follow “Things that go bump in the Night.” The story of the tabby cat is inspired by a variety of ancient Egyptian, Christian and Muslim traditions. The story of the cat and the dog is widely found on the internet, but I have been unable to discover the source.

Summary: Aragorn tells tales by the fireside.

With thanks to Med Cat





The Rangers had tracked the Orcs for two nights. On the third they caught up with them and swiftly despatched the vile creatures. They rode home in high spirits, pleased that the villages were safe and there had been no casualties amongst them. In fact, the only ailing Ranger was Aragorn, who was suffering from a slight cold and kept sneezing.

Inzilbeth warmly welcomed her son and her nephew home. She prepared a special meal to celebrate their safe return. The two young men ate heartily. Once the plates were cleared away, the three settled themselves around the fire for the evening.

“Stay out of the draught, Halbarad,” chided Inzilbeth when her son took a seat near the door. “You will catch Aragorn’s cold.”

Aragorn sighed. ”Aunt Inzilbeth, you are trained as a healer; you should know that colds are a contagion borne on the breath. Halbarad might well get a cold from sitting near me, but not from a draught! Master Elrond taught me that the body succumbs to contagions when overtired or otherwise weakened.” 

Inzilbeth snorted. ”We don’t all have the advantage of being taught by lore masters. I go by what I have observed.” Her old grey cat, Lithui, clambered on to her lap and she stroked her absently. “You, lad, should at least be wearing a thicker tunic and I hope you didn't get damp feet as that could bring on a chill.”
Aragorn sighed. “Aunt Inzilbeth, Master Elrond said....”

Inzilbeth snorted.

Halbarad hastily changed the subject. “How is Brann?” he asked. “Has he caught any more mice?”

Inzilbeth beamed. “He has spent most of his time in the loft where you sleep and has caught at least a dozen. A couple of rats too, which we are well rid of. Otherwise they'd have been into the winter stores.”

The big ginger tom must have heard his name mentioned as he chose that moment to saunter into the room, his tail aloft like a banner. Lithui stared at him as he passed, then closed her eyes again. Brann made his way towards Aragorn and settled himself on his lap. Aragorn began to stroke him and the cat purred happily. “He reminds me of the cat I had as a child in Rivendell,” he said. “He has similar markings.”

“I love the way tabby cats have a númen on their foreheads,” said Halbarad.

“When I was little, my mother used to tell me a story about why they do,” said Aragorn.

“I expect that was the same tale our mother told us as children,” said Inzilbeth. “I can’t recall the details as it’s so long since I heard it. Something about Elros, I think, or was it Elendil?”

“This story was about Elendil,” said Aragorn.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard it,” said Halbarad.

Seeing the others looking at him expectantly, Aragorn began. “When Elendil and the Faithful set sail for Middle-earth, a tabby cat jumped on Elendil’s ship just as they left the quay. The voyage was long and arduous and much to Elendil’s dismay, rats had got into the ship’s supplies before they left, threatening them with starvation. The cat, despite being heavily pregnant, bravely despatched all the rats. Elendil’s daughter was heavy with child too. She gave birth to a daughter one bitterly cold night. It was a difficult birth and as she lay fighting for her life, the new born child lay forgotten in its crib. Had not the cat jumped in beside it to warm it, the babe would have died.

Elendil loved the cat greatly for all she had done to help them. He laid his hand on her head and the letter númen appeared as a reminder of the West from whence they came.

Soon afterwards, the cat gave birth to eight kittens. They all bore the mark upon their foreheads. At that time, the ships had not yet become separated, so when the kittens were weaned one went aboard each ship.

Eventually, the ships reached Middle-earth and Elendil and his sons founded the twin kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. The cats too disembarked in Middle-earth where their descendants bear the númen on their foreheads to this day.” Aragorn continued to stroke the cat as he told the story and Brann tilted back his head as if listening to him. He purred loudly.

“A charming tale,” said Halbarad. “I wonder how much truth is in it.”

“I am certain Elendil would have had a ship’s cat,” said Aragorn. “Maybe tabby cats did come from Númenor along with the royal heirlooms and the plants he and his folk brought.”

“The heirlooms that are yours by right, nephew,” said Inzilbeth, glancing towards the Ring of Barahir on Aragorn’s hand.

“Maybe all the tabby cats in Middle-earth are yours too,” said Halbarad.

Aragorn laughed. “Only a fool would claim lordship over cats,” he said. “ When I was a small boy and wanted too much of my own way, Master Elrond used to tell me a story about the first Elves who woke beneath the stars who were lonely. Ilúvatar took pity upon them and sent them dogs to keep them company. The Elves were kind to the hounds who adored their masters who could do no wrong in their eyes. The Elves soon became very conceited and Ilúvatar was displeased. The Elves were then sent cats, who would obey no master and looked down their whiskers at all attempts to command them. None of the Children of Ilúvatar can maintain the illusion that they are supreme beings once they look into a cat’s eyes.” He yawned and shifted himself to a more comfortable position. Brann opened his huge golden eyes and glared at him balefully. “Alas, I have offended the great lord Brann!” said Aragorn. “He looks at me as if I were lower than a mouse!”

“And less tasty!” said Halbarad.

“An amusing story,” said Inzilbeth. “Cats and dogs were sung into being with the Great Music like everything else, though.”

“I wonder if the desire to create stories is part of the Great Music too,” Aragorn mused.

“You boys should be in bed,” said Inzilbeth. “She rose stiffly to her feet. “Rest while you may. There is much to be done on the morrow. I need you to mend the roof while you are at home.”

Aragorn and Halbarad bade her goodnight and made their way to bed.

Aragorn lay down somewhat apprehensively, fearing a repeat of the last two nights he had spent here. Brann, though, had done his job well as no scuffling and squeaking of mice disturbed his slumbers. He awoke at first light with his cold almost gone and pleasantly warm toes. Brann lay curled up at his feet. Aragorn smiled, recalling the legend of how Elendil’s cat had warmed the baby and drifted off to sleep again for another hour before breakfast.
Gone Astray by lindahoyland

B2MeM Prompt and Path: Inclement Weather. Purple Path

Format: Short story

Genre: Humour, animals, family, angst

Rating: PG

Warnings: None

Characters: Aragorn, Halbarad, OFCS

Pairings:none

Creator’s Notes
Events follow on from “Cat’s Tales, though I hope this can be read alone. With thanks tonancylea57 for suggesting a thunderstorm.

Summary: Aragorn’s cat goes missing.

 


The morning light was streaming through the window when Aragorn awoke. His feet were cold as Brann was not curled up in his usual spot. Of the big ginger cat there was so sign. Halbarad was already out of bed and donning his clothes.

“Come on, sleepyhead!” he said. “Mother will have breakfast waiting. Don’t forget she wants us to mend the roof today.”

Aragorn sat up and yawned. He glanced out of the window at the gathering clouds. “It looks like rain.”

“All the more reason to hurry then. Otherwise we will be sleeping in a pool of water tonight.” Halbarad secured the ties on his tunic and left the room.

Aragorn clambered out of bed and pulled on his clothes. When he got downstairs, Halbarad and Aunt Inzilbeth had begun their meal. Inzilbeth handed him a bowl of porridge. He glanced around the room as he ate. Inzilbeth’s cat, Lithui was asleep by the fire. Brann was obviously patrolling his territory outside.

Aragorn and Halbarad quickly ate their breakfast and set to work with a will, repairing the thatch on the roof. Halbarad was the more adept at the task as he had been taught how to do it since childhood, but Aragorn was quickly learning the skill, despite the shortage of practise due to a lack of thatched roofs at Rivendell. The rain held off despite ominous rumbles of distant thunder.

They finished their task just as Inzilbeth called them in for the evening meal. Halbarad’s mother had prepared a delicious meal of freshly caught trout. Lithui mewed and came to sit by the table, looking at them hopefully with her clouded old eyes.

Aragorn tossed her a morsel of fish from his plate. “Where’s Brann?” he asked. “I would have thought the smell of fish would have brought him running.”

“I’ve not seen him all day,” said Inzilbeth. “He hasn’t stayed out so long before. I wonder if he has returned to his old haunts.”

“I’ll go and enquire if Mistress Haleth has seen him when I’ve finished my meal,” said Aragorn.

“You fret after that cat like the old woman!” Halbarad teased.

“Brann is a good mouser, I would be loth to lose his skills,” Aragorn said with dignity.

As soon as he had finished his helping of Inzelbeth’s delicious baked apple pudding, Aragorn donned his cloak.

“You’ll be caught in the storm, nephew,” Inzilbeth warned as the thunder rumbled again. “That won’t do your cold any good.”

“My cold is better today and I shall not be long,” said Aragorn.

Raindrops began to fall as he walked through the village to Dame Haleth’s home, all the while looking around him for any trace of Brann.

The door was wide open and Haleth was ushering a variety of felines inside. “They don’t like getting their fur wet, poor things,” she said by way of explanation. She beckoned Aragorn to follow the cats inside. “I’m afraid I can’t offer you a seat,” she said.

Aragorn was not surprised as every available surface in the cottage seemed occupied by cats. There were black ones, white ones, grey ones, black and white, ginger and white ones, but no ginger tabbies. “I came to see if Brann had returned to you, but it seems not,” he said.

“I’ve not seen him,” said Haleth. “What’s this, though? Have you not been treating him kindly? What will folk think of a Chieftain who cannot even command the loyalty of his cat? Arathorn, now, he had a cat for well- nigh on twenty years!”

“Brann eats as well as I do and sleeps on my bed,” said Aragorn indignantly. “Never was a cat more pampered.”

“He must have got lost in the woods then,” said Haleth grimly. “I don’t like my cats wandering off there. It’s not safe for them what with the wolves and Orcs roaming around!”

“I shall find him, I promise you,” said Aragorn in a firm tone. “Good night, Dame Haleth.”

“You make sure you do,” said Haleth. “Brann’s a good boy, a cat fit for a king!”

While Aragorn had been inside the old woman’s cottage the rain had come on in earnest. Lightning flashed and thunder crashed overhead. It was madness to go near the woods in such weather. But what if poor Brann were out there, lost and alone, his beautiful ginger fur bedraggled and wet and his yellow eyes filled with fear?

Pulling his cloak tightly around him, Aragorn strode towards the woods. At least the foul weather meant that there were unlikely to be any Orcs abroad that night, but that was scant consolation for the water dripping down the back of his neck.

Aragorn called Brann’s name until he was hoarse. No cat emerged from among the trees, though. The sheet lighting illuminated the forest and Aragorn espied several rabbits and a badger bolting to their burrows. Of Brann, though, there was no trace.

Gradually, the thunder and lightning subsided, but the rain continued to cascade down in torrents. Aragorn was soaked to the skin before he reluctantly abandoned his search. Some ill must have befallen the beautiful ginger tom. What if he had been eaten by Orcs? There was nothing beneath the vile creatures.

Weary and sad of heart, Aragorn trudged back towards his Aunt’s. He had only had Brann a short time, but how he would miss his sweet face and bright eyes and the comforting warmth on his feet or his lap. He felt an abject failure if his father had kept a cat for twenty years and he could not even manage twenty days. For granted, his cat at Rivendell was safe and well, but there were few creatures that did not thrive there. He could take no credit.

Inzilbeth opened the door and gasped. “Valar defend us! Where ever have you been? I was about to send Halbarad after you. You look like a drowned rat! Now get out of those wet clothes this instant!”

“I couldn’t find Brann,” Aragorn said sadly. He walked into the living room leaving a trail of water behind him.

“Brann? He’s asleep by the fire.”

A ginger head was lifted off the rug and unblinking yellow eyes turned towards Aragorn. Relief flooded through him, followed by a desire to throw something at the cat.

“Now go and get out of those wet clothes,” Inzilbeth repeated. There’s more water coming in now than came in through the hole in the roof!”

Feeling in a very bad mood, Aragorn dripped his way up to the loft.

000

A little later, Aragorn’s spirits were much improved now he was wearing dry clothes and had towelled his hair. Inzilbeth had insisted on him taking the chair by the fire and poured him a glass of the mulled wine she usually kept for special occasions. On his lap sat Brann, purring loudly. Aragorn stroked him while he sipped his wine thinking him a very fine cat indeed. Brann blinked at him slowly before falling asleep.

 

I will lift mine eyes by lindahoyland

I will lift up mine eyes

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber." Psalm 121- 1-3

A series of events after his return from Gondor leaves Aragorn's spirits at an all time low.

A/n – One line is quoted directly from Tolkien. Written for the Teitho "Sky" Challenge where it was unplaced.

Aragorn had been so filled with hope when he had arrived at Rivendell last week under a cloudless blue sky. That was before he had spoken to Elrond. Now his foster father's words felt seared into his very soul. "She shall not be the bride of any Man less than the King of both Gondor and Arnor."

He supposed he could proclaim himself King of Arnor, empty though the title would be, but King of Gondor? He laughed mirthlessly. Denethor would more willingly concede that title to his stable boy than to the man he had known as Captain Thorongil! His hope of making Arwen his bride seemed no nearer now than at the first moment he had espied her beneath the birches.

His mother's reaction had been just as distressing. "Alas!" Gilraen had cried. "I shall never hold my grandchild in my arms and the line of Isildur is doomed! For generations, many have fought and died to protect our lineage while you would cast it away on a whim!"

"Do you not like Lady Arwen?" was the only, albeit somewhat foolish response he could think of in the face of her fury.

"She is the fairest of ladies, noble and gracious. I like her well. Do you not see, though, my son, you aspire too high? Master Elrond's daughter is not for a mortal man. You have met fair women aplenty in the Angle and surely their were maidens in abundance in Gondor, or even in Rohan? Why could you not have offered your heart to one of those? By now you would have been wed with a fine brood of children to carry on our line."

"I met many fair maidens on my travels, mother, but I could never love them as I love Arwen."

Gilraen sighed. "Young people nowadays think too much of romance. True love often comes after marriage. Forget Master Elrond's daughter and look for a suitable maiden amongst your own people."

"I am sorry, mother, but I have given my pledge to Arwen. I will wed no other."

Then Gilraen had wept and there was nothing that Aragorn could do to comfort her.

That had been several days ago. Now even the weather seemed to reflect Aragorn's heavy heart. Dark clouds rolled across the sky, threatening heavy rain or even early snow. The autumn blooms in the gardens when Aragorn was walking that had been so bright when arrived, now looked faded and sad.

The sound of footsteps started him out of his melancholy thoughts. He spun round to see Halbarad hastening towards him. His kinsman looked travel stained and his cloak was streaked with blood.

"Halbarad! Are you injured?"

"I am well, but I bring grave tidings." Halbarad grasped Aragorn's hand in greeting. He was breathing heavily and struggled to get out the words. "Orcs have attacked our village. We managed to get the women and children to a safe hiding place but many good men were slain. We were heavily outnumbered."

Aragorn's heart sank. He had passed through the village less than a week ago. He could have stayed, but had been so eager to get to Rivendell that he had hardly paused long enough to greet his fellow Rangers."

"I should have been there."

"What difference would it have made? You have been absent these many years."

Halbarad's tone was weary and expressionless, but the simple words pierced Aragorn's conscience as keenly as a blade. "Were you able to slay the vile creatures?" he asked.

Halbarad shook his head wearily. "Most of them fled into the mountains. We did not have enough men to pursue them."

"I shall go after them and avenge our kinsmen."

Halbarad held up his hand in protest. "You would be one against many and the trail will be cold by now."

"My skills with sword and bow have improved these past years as have my tracking skills. I have neglected our people too long. Now maybe can play the part I should."

"Kinsman, this is madness!"

If Halbarad made further protests Aragorn did not hear them. He hurried to his chamber and took off the fine garments he wore in Master Elrond's house, replacing them with Ranger garb. He took up his weapons, bade his mother a hasty farewell and rode off into the Misty Mountains.

000

The Orcs were long gone, if indeed they had ever been this way. Aragorn searched for days but could find no trace of them. His heart grew heavier with every hour that passed. It seemed he could not even slay a few of the foul creatures to avenge his people. As he climbed higher, he had to leave his horse behind him and proceed on foot. A thick wet mist veiled the sky and shrouded him. He realised with a start that he was actually walking through a cloud. As darkness fell, he could not even see the path in front of him. He trod on a jagged stone and stumbled, twisting his ankle as he fell.

He got to his feet, but could only limp along painfully slowly. He could go no further. The path was far treacherous in the darkness on his unsteady feet. His clothes were drenched and sticking uncomfortably to his skin. He knew he needed to get warm and dry, but there was no shelter here on the mountainside and he could not walk to find a sheltering rocky outcrop or cave. He tried to keep stumbling forward until exhaustion overcame him and he sank to his knees. What a fool he had been, coming up here alone and unprepared like some raw recruit! Now he would pay for his folly with his life. As he sank into oblivion a feeling of peace washed over him. Maybe it was all for the best. Arwen would sail with her father when Master Elrond departed Middle-earth while Halbarad would lead his people and be a far better Chieftain than he had ever been. His mother would weep, but she had already been without him for many long years while he had sought to prove himself in distant lands. Aragorn closed his eyes and knew no more.

0000

Aragorn was warm, so comfortably warm and surrounded by something softer than his goosedown quilt at Rivendell. Was this death? Was he beyond the circles of the world? His ankle throbbed painfully and his mouth was dry which led him to conclude that he must still be alive. He opened his eyes and gazed upwards into a cloudless blue sky. He looked around him and realised he was enfolded in the wings of a giant bird- a great eagle! The bird turned its head towards him and regarded him with piercing yellow eyes.

"So you are awake at last. little man chick," it said. "I thought you would sleep the day away."

Aragorn gasped. The bird had the power of speech. "What happened?" he stammered. He now noticed he was no longer on the mountain path, but instead in a sloping grassy meadow beside a rippling stream.

"Drink!" commanded the bird.

Aragorn found himself gently released from his feathery confines. He cupped his hands in the water and drank. It tasted clear and sweet. Feeling much refreshed, he regarded the eagle with a mixture of awe and curiosity. "Where am I?" he asked.

"I found you half frozen near the summit," said the eagle. "My kind rarely interfere with your kind, but my King said you were important so I brought you down the mountain and warmed you like an eaglet as you were half frozen."

"King? Who might your king be? I am of the line of kings, descended from Elendil himself."

"The King I serve is greater by far than Elendil."

Aragorn tried to remember what he had been told by Gandalf many years ago about the Great Eagles. Then realisation dawned upon him. "You serve Lord Manwë, the King of the Valar!" he exclaimed.

"Indeed I do," The eagle's breast swelled with pride. "He himself bade me bring you down the mountainside.

"You have seen him?" Aragorn's brain was reeling. Surely he must be dreaming? He was conversing with a giant bird who was telling him that the Lord of the Valar was concerned for his welfare. Well he knew the old tales, but even though he had heard them from the Wise, they had always seemed remote and distant, memories of an Age long gone.

"Of course I have seen him, foolish young chick! He bade me tell you not to lose hope as the Powers, even the One, have formed you for a high destiny. Stay but on the right path, Aragorn son of Arathorn, and King of Men you will be. Long will you be revered in the eyes of all the Free Peoples. Now, I must rejoin my aerie. You will be well now, little man chick, your horse is nearby. Farewell!" With that, the eagle flapped its great wings and soared aloft.

Aragorn raised his eyes skywards until the great bird disappeared from view into the clouds above the mountain peaks. The darkness had left his soul and he was filled with hope. He had a high destiny ahead of him, even as Master Elrond had long ago foretold. One day he would be able to make Arwen his bride.

He heard a whinny of greeting. He tore his eyes away from the heavens and saw his horse galloping towards him. Stumbling to his feet, he grasped the steed's mane and managed to mount. The horse waited patiently for him to indicate which way they should go.

There was only one choice. He must return to Rivendell and confess the failure of his mission to his kinsman, and be reconciled with his mother and Master Elrond, then return to the Angle with Halbarad and continue the fight against the darkness until it was utterly defeated.

For today, though, he would ride under a clear blue sky, his heart filled with peace.

 
Flight by lindahoyland

Flight

Summary: Aragorn loses a man under his command.

Rating: PG13

Warnings: character death, battle scenes

Disclaimer: The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story.

Aragorn urged the horse forward, little caring whither the animal took him. The screams of the dying man still rang in his ears. It was his fault and his alone that Beleg was slain. He should have seen the Orcs coming, he should have moved faster to defend his comrade; he should never have gone after the Orcs without gathering more men. He was a hot- headed young fool and unworthy to be the Chieftain of the Rangers.

He had buried Beleg where he fell and burned the foul carcasses of the Orcs. Then, he had mounted his horse and rode away as if Sauron himself were in hot pursuit.

He knew not for how long he rode or how far, but when the horse started panting and started to stumble, he knew it was time to stop if he did not desire another death on his conscience. He recognised his surroundings as the ruined city of Annúminas. Aragorn laughed bitterly as he dismounted from the exhausted horse. These ruins were all that remained of what had once been a thriving capital. In earlier times, he would have ruled from here as King. How his illustrious ancestors would despise their latest scion!

Aragorn tended his horse as best he could, though a great weariness had come over him. He left the faithful steed to graze amid the ruins. He settled himself down in a sheltered spot and gazed out across Lake Nenuial. The waters lapped gently against the shore, but the thickening grey clouds overhead reflected his dark mood. He had come here with such high hopes when he had returned to his people as their chieftain. During the year that had followed, he had gradually taken over the mantle of leadership from Halbarad. He had grown to care deeply for the men he led and had endeavoured to care for them. That was before today when his foolish mistakes had cost Beleg his life. How was he going to face Beleg's widow and young daughters, or his elderly mother? His fingers clutched round the star-shaped brooch he had taken from his slain comrade. He should have brought the grim tidings to them at once, rather than fleeing like a panicked lad. Aragorn buried his face in his hands and wept. He then fell into an exhausted slumber.

0000

Aragorn blinked and opened his eyes. He must have slept a good many hours as the position of the sun in the sky indicated it was early morning. The air felt fresh and clean and the birds sang sweetly in the treetops. Aragorn's heart soared. Then the memories of the previous day came flooding back. He sighed deeply.

"So you are awake at last, sleepyhead!"

The sound of the voice made him leap to his feet, spin round and instinctively reach for his sword until he saw who the speaker was.

"Halbarad! Whatever are you doing here?"

"I might well ask you the same question, cousin, but since you asked first, I will tell you. I witnessed the Orc attack from a nearby hill and rode with all haste to your aid, but when I arrived you were galloping away into the distance."

"I should not have done that." Aragorn bowed his head and slumped down on the grass. "I should have ridden straight to Beleg's wife. I just wanted to be alone."

"I have sent Tarcil to them with the tidings," said Halbarad.

"You know of his death then." Aragorn's shoulders slumped still further.

Halbarad dropped to his knees beside his chieftain and placed a comforting arm around his shoulders.

"I deserve no sympathy," said Aragorn. "It was my fault that Beleg died. I am not worthy to command the Rangers. They deserve far better."

"Why?" asked Halbarad. "Did you slay him yourself?"

"Of course not!" Aragorn retorted. "The Orcs overwhelmed him because I was too slow to defend him."

"And why was that?"

"They were coming at me from all sides."

"So you most surely would have been slain if your attention had wavered from your own battle but for an instant."

"Yes, but I …"

"Aragorn, you must stop this!" Halbarad shook his cousin none too gently. "Listen to me. It is no easy thing to lose a man under your command, but sadly, it is something all who command men have to face. I recall the first time it happened to me. I shamed myself in front of the men by losing my breakfast in front of them. Since then, I have learned to divert my grief and horror into avenging my fallen comrades, but it is no easy thing to bear."

Aragorn nodded sadly.

"You will never forget Beleg, nor should you," Halbarad continued, "but you can best honour his memory by continuing to fight for all he believed in; that one day our people's fortunes would be restored and his children would have a brighter future." He patted Aragorn's shoulder again.

After a long silence, Aragorn said, "You speak wisely, cousin."

"You will gain wisdom with the passing years," said Halbarad. "You are yet very young."

"You are only three years older!" Aragorn retorted.

"You have led a far more sheltered existence than I," said Halbarad. "I have been fighting since I could first hold a sword and seeing those I love slain before mine eyes."

"I still have much to learn before I can be a worthy leader," said Aragorn.

"You have, but you will learn as the years pass. We already think you a good leader. We Rangers might revere your lineage, but we would not suffer a fool as our Chieftain."

Aragorn's heart lightened for the first time since he had seen Beleg struck down. He gazed out across the lake again. A breeze rippled the waters, which reflected the morning sunlight. The gulls wheeled overhead, crying to their mates. The clouds of the night before had vanished and it promised to be a bright summer day.

A/n. Written for a BTME picture prompt back in 2014

This story archived at http://www.naiceanilme.net/viewstory.php?sid=1255