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?