Under the Light of Stars
Not long after King and Queen retired to the chamber given them, Eldarion awoke; and after he was changed and fed resisted returning to sleep. “I will take him out into the garden then, my love,” Aragorn said quietly to his wife. “Rest now, beloved.”
“You are not tired, Estel?”
“Perhaps it is only the excitement of having arrived at last, but I find I wish to go out and look upon the stars, for they are very bright in the desert lands.”
Arwen looked at the window, then sighed. “I would join you, but I sense the Farozi is in the gardens now, and I do not believe he would be comfortable if I joined you this night. But do show our son the stars, Estel.” They kissed, and he took his son loosely wrapped in a blanket and went down to find the way outside.
Followed by Hildigor, Aragorn made his way down the hallway, and finding a guard asked for directions. Noting the visitor carried nothing of greater threat than his son and that he was followed as was proper by one of his own guard of honor, the guard summoned one of the servants on duty that night and had the Lord of Gondor led to the door to the gardens. There he thanked his guide and went out, followed by the faithful Hildigor.
For a time Aragorn walked quietly, murmuring to the infant, but at last found a place by the wall where he could look Westward and began to sing, lifting the infant up until it also could look that way. It was not a song of Elbereth he sang this night; he remembered instead one of the songs sung by the Lady Galadriel during his last visit to Lothlorien alongside the Ringbearer and sang that.
I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew.
Of wind I sang; a wind there came and in the branches blew.
Why he missed the Lady of the Golden Wood particularly at this time he couldn’t say, save that now his memories of her were inextricably entwined with those of Frodo, whom she’d accompanied away. He missed Frodo at the moment, as happened often even now. In his heart, Frodo had become the brother Estel of Imladris had so deeply longed for during his childhood, as had Sam as well. He saw Sam so rarely, although they exchanged frequent letters. The latest letter, which had arrived the day of Eldarion’s birth and which carried the particulars of the birth of Goldilocks on April sixth, had also told of the flowering of the mallorn tree in the Party Field, down and across from Bag End and the New Row, at the same time as the birth of Sam and Rosie’s fifth child.
Did Frodo walk beneath mallorns on Tol Eressëa? Did he and Arwen’s grandmother twine the leaves and elanor into coronets of living gold? Did they look Eastward together toward the memory of those they’d left behind? Did Gandalf stand with them in his proper form at such times? Could one such as Gandalf miss the presence as such as he was? (Ah, but of course Gandalf's nature would not have changed that much once he resumed his original shape and identity!) And did his adar caress the dark hair of Frodo, remembering the small boy he’d comforted in his spells of loneliness years earlier when he’d bewailed the lack of companionship of those of his own kind?
Tears ran unheeded down Aragorn’s face as he stood and sang, as he held his son to him in love and longing, wishing he’d been able to see Frodo married and happy, wishing he could have rejoiced with him at the birth of another set of Hobbit children, the children Frodo had so desired to father.
At last the song was at an end, and he stood in silence, the white robe to which was pinned the Elessar brooch, and which had been embroidered with lines of stars about neck and placket, sleeves, and down the front to its hem, rustling around him as the night breeze blew off the desert and over the River and about him. Behind him stood Hildigor in the black and silver of the Guard of the Citadel, Hildigor who would most likely follow his father as Steward of the North as Faramir was Steward of the South.
“That was very beautiful,” said the voice of An’Sohrabi of Harad as he and his son approached out of the darkness of the garden, the light of the stars reflected from their eyes. “You still have the power of evoking images with your voice, my friend.”
Aragorn shrugged. “It must be my Elven heritage making itself known,” he said quietly.
“You weep, friend. Did you know one here who moved you so that your memory was stirred by the stars of Harad?”
“It is the view of stars alone, in no matter what place I might be, that sparks the memories. What was said earlier this evening of the disadvantages of being the Dúnedan, the Man of the West, is all too true. So many am I separated from whom I’ve loved, either by death or the Sea. But it is a Sea I cannot cross in my lifetime to come to those I would still delight in.”
“What is your true name?”
“Which one? I think each and all are true names, each it its way.”
“You were not born Horubi’ninarin.”
After several moments of silence, the tall Man sighed. “My parents named me Aragorn, the Valorous King. My father, as I told you, died when I was but two years of age, and the great Lord Elrond, Lord of Imladris, brought my mother and me into his land and home for my protection. It had been told abroad I’d died of fever--and I’m told that it was nearly true. Adar gave me the child’s name of Estel, which means hope. He it was who trained me as a healer, another part of my Elven heritage, and who saw to it I was trained also as warrior and commander. When I came of age I was told my true identity, and the place I was to know among my own people of the remnants of Arnor was opened again to me.
“I became chieftain of the Northern Dúnedain and captain of the Rangers of Eriador, commander of the growing forces of the North that still held true to the heirs of Elendil, Isildur, Valandil, and Arvedui. In the Breelands I was given the names of Strider and Longshanks. Then, after our forces were ordered I went South to Rohan and Gondor to learn of the Southern Dúnedain peoples, their lands and allies and concerns. I rode among the eoreds of Rohan, serving Thengel King, called by him Ælric and by most of the rest of his people Thorongil, the Eagle of the Star. And it was as Captain Thorongil I served later in Gondor as well.
“After I left the service of Lord Ecthelion I went first back home to see again to the leadership of our forces and to appoint my cousin Halbarad to take the place of his father, my mother’s brother Halbaleg, as Steward of Arnor--such as Arnor was at the time. I then returned South and went Eastward, examined the empty lands before the Black Gate of Mordor, ventured into Rhun. Mil’rapthor they called me there, Star Eagle. Then I returned to the Pelargir to take command of the merchant vessel that one of my kinsmen had made available to me, and I became Peredrion, the Half-Son, allegedly of Dunland. We sailed to the Harlond to take aboard the goods I’d been collecting for so long and then sailed down the River Anduin, through the Mouths of the Sea, at last here to Near Harad. Then I met you and fought the one who bore the lesser ring, and I told you to call me Horubi’ninarin, the Falcon of the Stars, for I had not heard anyone speak of eagles here and knew not the word for it as yet.
“It was foretold that if Sauron was indeed cast down and I came into my own I should be known as Elessar, the Elfstone. It is the Elessar stone I wear now, the gift of my beloved Arwen. Elven smiths wrought it long ago, gave into it the power of renewal and regrowth. It enhances my own gifts of healing, command, discernment, and judgment. When I came again to Minas Tirith they saw it upon my breast and called me by its name, and so it was the people of Gondor who gave me the name foretold. And so I have taken the throne name of Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar, the Elfstone and Renewer and Far-Strider.”
“You have borne a spate of names.”
The King nodded, now smiling. “Oh, yes; and even more titles. Master Ruvemir has been keeping a count, and the other day was commenting he’d found it standing at twenty-six. There are a few others I’ve not told him as yet, but they matter not.”
He sighed and shifted his son to his left arm, caressed the child’s face with his forefinger. On one finger he wore a great ring set with stones which even under starlight shone green, as did the stone of the great brooch he wore. “And who as yet can foretell what our children will know or come to; how many identities and roles they may be called upon to shoulder?”
For a time none spoke. At last the Lord Elessar looked at the Farozi and his son. “Your son is a fine Man, and will do well when he follows you.”
Ankhrabi finally spoke. “Thank you, my Lord,” he responded with great dignity.
“I see that one of your own sons was named for your uncle.”
“I did not know him, for he died before my birth. Yet I know the deep love and respect which my father held for his brother, and I could do no more honor than to name my son for him.”
“He was a fine Man. I remember him well, the suspicion he gave me when we first met, and the growing respect, and the offer to accept me as one of those who fought under him.”
“It would have been quite an honor as well as being ironic, having the future king of Gondor fighting for the security of Harad.”
“I had already fought for the security of Rohan and Gondor.”
“Yes,” An’Sohrabi said, “you told all you had been a hired sword.” His voice held amusement.
Aragorn laughed softly.
Ankhrabi asked, “And for whom did you name your own son?”
Now the King of Gondor and Arnor sighed. “We named him in honor of his Elven ancestry, which is far closer on his mother’s side than on mine. Eldarion means ‘son of the Elves.’ In him and his sister is the blood of the line of the Kings renewed and strengthened, for now the blood of both of the sons of Eärendil and Elwing runs through them.”
“I do not understand. I thought Eärendil was only the name for the star we call Osiri.”
“Only the name of a star? Eärendil is not simply a star scattered by the hands of Elbereth, or Neryet as your people call her. It is indeed the ship Vigilot in which my wife’s grandfather Eärendil sailed to Aman at the end of the First Age, gone to summon the Valar themselves to come to the aid of the Free Peoples of Middle Earth in their struggles against Morgoth whom you call Seti. His mortality was burned away by his quest, and the cost of the quest was that he might not return to the comfort of his people or his sons, but that he must have bound to his brow the Silmaril he bore with him to bring back to the land of its making, and he must each night sail Vigilot upon the Seas of Night for our comfort and guidance and reassurance.
“Two sons did Eärendil leave, twin sons, Elrond and Elros Peredhil, the Half-Elven. After Morgoth was vanquished by his fellows among the Valar with the assistance of the Edain and the Eldar and those Dwarves who fought with them, an irrevocable Choice was laid upon the sons of Eärendil and Elwing, who both were themselves the children of marriages between mortal Men and immortal Elven maidens: either they might choose the life of the Eldar and live as do the Elves, as long as the world of Arda itself remains; or they might choose to accept the Gift of Iluvatar the Creator for themselves and their descendants, and accept mortality, knowing that they will live a limited span and in the end die and allow their spirits to pass outside the bounds of Arda to whatever disposition Iluvatar has made for us. In the end the brother Elros chose to accept the Gift of Iluvatar while his brother Elrond chose to live as one of the Eldar. When Elrond’s children were born this fate was laid upon them--they might live the life of the Eldar until the time came their father chose at last to abandon Middle Earth to go to Aman, to the Undying Lands, which is the birthright of those of Elven blood, and then they themselves faced the same Choice offered their father and his brother.
“When Arwen bound herself to me to become my wife, she made the Choice of our ancestress Lúthien Tinúviel, to accept the Gift of Iluvatar. She made this Choice freely long before her father chose to leave Middle Earth, in fact; and as a result of this free choice certain graces were granted--that three mortals who had borne that which ought not to have been borne were granted the right to sail to the Undying Lands in her place, that they might know healing for their bodies and spirits from the wounds they bore from exposure to such a thing ere they, too, accept the Gift; and that her brothers might remain in Middle Earth with the Choice yet before them past the sailing of their father.
“He who was Elros Peredhil was the founder of my line, was the first of the Kings of Númenor, who took the throne name Tar-Minyatar. Now our children bear the legacy of both of the sons of Eärendil.”
An’Sohrabi straightened. “You then are telling us that the tales told of the coming of Osiri are not simply tales for our spiritual instruction----”
“I am telling you that in your land they have been changed from the strict truth of them, but that, yes, at heart they are based on reality. Only in the far Northern lands have the lingering Eldar continued to mix freely with mortal Men so that we hear the tales not solely as tales but as the histories they began as, with the details remembered by those who lived them. My wife’s father fought alongside his brother against Morgoth, saw Morgoth’s defeat at the hands of the rest of the Valar, stood before the Valar beside his brother and received the Choice. Three thousand years later he followed Gil-galad to Mordor when Morgoth’s servant Sauron sought to set himself up in Morgoth’s place, and he saw the defeat of Sauron at the hands of Gil-galad, Elendil, and Isildur. Then over the last three thousand years he has watched the rebuilding of power by Sauron, and once again did what he must to see to Sauron’s second and final defeat. But this time finally the weariness came upon him, and when the victory was won and he knew his daughter’s Choice was made and he must lose her as he had lost his brother, he sailed at last for the Undying Lands.”
Both the Farozi and his son looked to the star they knew as Osiri with a prickling of their scalps, realizing that for the one alongside whom they stood this was not but a star, but in truth an ancestor, whose wife looked upon it and saw not but a star but her grandfather....
Finally the King Elessar gave another sigh. “This one is ready to again sleep,” he said quietly, looking down into the face of his son. “I will bear him back to his mother and again seek sleep for myself. I wish you a good night.” And followed by his guard he returned to the guest wing and went back to his wife’s side.
The song Aragorn sings is from The Fellowship of the Ring, of course.