Disclaimer: I do not own any of the recognizable characters; I am only borrowing them for fun for a little while. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.
Many thanks to my Beta Readers – J. and Marsha
Many thanks to my Beta Readers – J. and Marsha
It was shortly after noon by the time the five man patrol returned to Dolomar. Their clothes were covered with soot, dirt, and sweat from the hard work of burning all of the dead bodies. If it was possible, the Dúnedain Rangers did not leave orc bodies to rot and attract scavengers, especially so close to one of their villages. A small spring had provided them water to clean faces and hands, but the stench of orc and smoke hung heavily about them as they entered the village to the enthusiastic greetings of their families and friends.
Estel watched as Faelon was greeted by Arthiell who, ignoring his filthy clothes, embraced him right before Balrant hugged him. He was interested to see that Talagan was Alvist’s father as the boy, his mother, and baby sister greeted the Ranger. Rosruin stood close by with a worried expression on his face and Estel wondered at that and watched as Talagan greeted Rosruin affectionately, laying an arm around his shoulder and the boy relaxed. No one met the taciturn Dúrvain who had spoken few words the entire time they were gone; he simply nodded at a few people and walked down the lane and disappeared into one of the houses. Estel watched them all for a moment and then started to make his way to his uncle’s house so he could clean up before checking on the wounded men. He was stopped by Halhigal who had been speaking with Halbarad.
“Halbarad told me what happened,” Halhigal said. “We’re fortunate that there were not more orcs and you only had a few of them to track down.” He frowned, “I fear that they’re on the increase again, Aragorn. That’s the second time in three years they’ve been this close to the village.”
“Is it the same in the other villages?”
“We’re the farthest north so if any village is likely to be attacked it’s us, though of course sometimes orcs come in from the south and strike Taurnand or Forntaur. The two westernmost villages are the least likely to be attacked, especially the last ten years.”
Nodding, Estel started to walk on and his uncle and cousin joined him. “How are Gilost and Caladel?”
“Nimrie is checking on them now, but they’re doing well,” Halhigal replied. “Gilost awoke not long after you left and last I heard Caladel was demanding to go home, but Nimrie wants him to stay there until at least this evening.”
“I want to clean up and then check on them,” Estel said, looking down at his filthy clothes with a scowl.
“It’ll wash off,” Halbarad commented with a grin and Estel turned his scowl on him.
“Lord Aragorn, Halbarad!” Faelon called.
The two young men swung around to see what he wanted and Estel noted his approach was rather hesitant. “Yes, Faelon?”
Faelon focused on Halbarad and considered his words carefully. He always made it a point to briefly speak to the young men about how they had done when they returned from a patrol. While he had no qualms about speaking with Halbarad he was not sure if he should say anything to Aragorn. Faelon glanced at Halhigal whose eyes held a small glint of amusement and he gave an inward sigh before he spoke. “You did well Halbarad, you’d be a welcome member of my patrol.”
“Thank you,” Halbarad said, grinning. “Now I just have to talk Adar into it,” he cast a sidelong look at Halhigal whose eyes were now stern as he gazed at his son unblinkingly.
Clearing his throat twice, Faelon turned his gaze to his Chieftain to find he was watching him with a look that might have been amusement but he did not know Aragorn well enough to be sure. “You’re an excellent tracker, my lord, and I’ve never seen anyone that could move as quietly through the woods and brush as you do.”
“Thank you, Faelon,” Estel inclined his head, “I had excellent teachers.” He bit back the comment he wanted to make, unsure if Faelon would be amused if he asked if he also would be welcome as a member of his patrol.
“I’m sure you did, I’ve ridden with Lords Elladan and Elrohir before,” Faelon commented. “I’ll take my leave of you now, my lord,” he said with a slight bow. “I don’t know when exactly my patrol will return – it’ll be sometime in the spring - but I look forward to seeing you then.” He paused, “I’m glad you’ve returned Lord Aragorn,” Faelon gave his chieftain a small, though genuine smile and started towards his house to clean up before he headed west.
Estel glanced towards the stables and saw, with some surprise, that horses were being saddled and readied for departure. He had assumed they would wait and leave in the morning. “Your patrol need not leave this afternoon, you may wait until morning,” Estel said quietly.
Faelon shook his head, “We’ve lingered long enough. It will take us at least a week to get to our patrol area and orcs or wolves may appear at any time.”
“I suppose so,” Estel looked at the ground for a minute and then gave Faelon a searching look. “I am glad to have met you and… I know that my men are in good hands when you lead them. Be well, Faelon, may the Valar protect you.” He reached out and clasped the Ranger’s arm.
“Thank you, Lord Aragorn,” Faelon was touched by his young Chieftain’s words and he bowed again before walking over to join an impatiently waiting Balrant and heading for home.
Deciding that he should speak with the members of Faelon’s patrol before they left, Estel headed to the stable and spoke briefly to each of the men before heading once more towards his uncle’s house. Nimrie was standing outside the healing room talking animatedly with Halbarad and Estel slowed his steps. A small smile crossed his lips as he recognized her attitude as being much like his own naneth’s had often been whenever he had returned from a patrol with Elladan and Elrohir. Concerned and caring and somewhat frightened as she fussed over him to make sure that he had returned safely. It appeared that it was the same with mothers everywhere he thought with amusement as he watched Halbarad try and edge away from Nimrie. The smile disappeared from Estel’s lips as Nimrie caught a glimpse of him approaching and he recognized the glint in her eye as she focused her attention on him. Much to Estel’s relief, she was more restrained with him than she was with Halbarad, though part of him was moved by her care for him.
“Are you well, Aragorn?” He nodded. “You need to go and get out of those filthy clothes. Halbarad will show you where to put them and I’ll wash them.” He tried to protest and tell Nimrie that he could clean his own clothes, but she ignored him and continued. “You need to eat, there’s some fresh bread and cheese in the kitchen, you eat that and it’ll hold you until supper.” Nimrie stopped and smiled at her nephew, “I’m glad you’re safe, Aragorn.”
Estel returned her smile, “Me, too and thank you, Aunt Nimrie.” He glanced at Halbarad who was waiting for him a short distance away. He jogged to catch up with his cousin and they walked in silence, each lost in their own thoughts, though Estel thought that Halbarad seemed excited about something and was trying to keep that excitement under control. Estel started when Halbarad elbowed him in the side.
“Grandmother,” he whispered and Estel looked up to see their grandmother standing outside her house with her arms crossed, a small frown on her face as she watched her two grandsons. The two young men exchanged glances and changed directions to go and greet her before they headed home, once again delayed from their goal.
“Good afternoon, Grandmother,” they both said politely with small bows, Halbarad with a smile as Ivorwen had mostly treated him well over the years. It was only in the last five or six years since her husband died that she had become increasingly hardened to the people around her. Estel wore a guarded expression as he greeted her and he eyed her warily.
Ivorwen nodded in acknowledgment of their greetings and looked the two of them over with a critical eye, taking in not only the state of their clothing but also their exhaustion. They may have been able to hide that from some people, but she could easily read that in the set of their shoulders and in their stance as they stood towering over her. Now that she had seen them and assured herself that they were well and whole she turned to more pressing matters. “You look like an elf,” she stated curtly, slowly looking Aragorn up and down.
Startled by the comment, Estel looked down at himself wondering what she was referring to. It was his clothing he realized and he knew that the soft green and grey elven made clothing was much different than the dark colored clothing that the Dúnedain wore, but he had no choice as he had nothing else to wear. Besides he liked his clothes, they were comfortable and the colors blended in well with the forest and brush. “Do you mean my clothes, Grandmother?” Estel asked cautiously.
“Yes, I mean your clothes, Aragorn,” she replied impatiently. “Come by before supper and I’ll take your measurements. You need to wear men’s clothing not elven. Now you two go home and sleep,” Ivorwen gave an imperious wave of her hand, clearly dismissing them and started back into her house.
Estel started to protest his grandmother’s words. “Grandmother, you need not make me…” his voice trailed off under her icy glare. “I will be back,” he said raising his hands in a placating manner and Ivorwen went inside without another word. Sighing softly Estel turned to Halbarad who had an amused expression on his face as he began to walk on. “Why does she want to make me clothes? There is nothing wrong with the ones I have and she does not even like being around me,” Estel said with confusion.
Halbarad cast a look over his shoulder at his cousin as they entered the house. “She likes you well enough, Aragorn. Grandmother just has a strange way of showing it at times. Though I’ll admit I’ve never seen her quite this… well, abrupt with others before.” He hung his bow and quiver near the door and Estel did the same as he considered Halbarad’s words.
“Do I look like our grandfather? Or Arathorn?” he asked as he removed his cloak and set it with Halbarad’s in a basket to be cleaned. “Do you think I remind her of one of them?”
“You don’t look like grandfather and I’m not the one to ask about Arathorn. You look a lot like your brothers, which is rather strange considering they are elves and not truly your brothers. Adar says you look a little bit like me.” Halbarad set several large kettles of water over the fire so that it would heat. Moving to the kitchen he grabbed the bread his naneth had baked that morning and cut it in two, tossing one half to Estel who grinned as he caught it. He put some cheese on a plate and handed that to his cousin before filling two cups with ale.
The two of them ate the bread and cheese while they stood leaning against the mantle so as not to get the chairs and benches dirty by sitting on them. They spoke of the patrol of the night before and Estel learned that Halbarad had gone out with only two other patrols that had been gone for less than a week each time. Halbarad told him that both had mostly been scouting trips and that they had never even seen so much as the track of an orc. Estel shared a few of his experiences as he traveled with Elladan and Elrohir or with Glorfindel and some of the Imladris patrols. As he spoke, Halbarad realized that it had been rather foolish to have him set aside as if he were one of the normal young men of the Dúnedain. When he mentioned that though, Estel quickly told him that he had not really minded and that he understood why Faelon did what he did. The Ranger did not know his capabilities and it was understandable to treat him just as he would any other young man under him. By the time they had finished eating, the water was sufficiently heated and they each carried large buckets of the steaming water into their rooms to finally get clean.
Hearing the soft snores of Halbarad as he started to knock on his bedroom door, Estel turned away with a grin and walked out of the house, heading for the healing room to check on Gilost and Caladel. He wondered where Halhigal had disappeared to but supposed that he had things he needed to do around the village. Suppressing a tired yawn he politely greeted those he passed. Estel noticed that people seemed a little less reserved with him, a little more open perhaps. At least he did not feel that they were staring at him as they had done when he arrived.
Entering the healing room Estel found that Nimrie was sitting on a chair near the fire mending a shirt which she quickly set aside and stood when she saw him. The room was quiet and peaceful. Caladel was sleeping and his son, Caladithil, was sitting on the floor fletching arrows as he watched over his father. Gilost was awake, though he had one arm lying across his eyes, and he was talking quietly with his sister, Gaerwen, as she sat on the edge of his bed clutching his free hand.
“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” Nimrie asked quietly as she approached.
Estel shrugged, “I want to check the men first. I will sleep later, Aunt Nimrie. How is Gilost?” He was pleased to see him awake but concerned that the light was evidently bothering him.
“He’s doing well, though I want to keep him here one more night. He was sick several times during the night but has eaten some broth and kept that down. I’ve given him willow bark tea and that’s helped his headache some,” Nimrie frowned, “but it does seem quite severe, Aragorn.”
“He hit his head rather hard so that is not unusual. I will look at him.” Estel walked over to the bed. Gaerwen looked up at him and gave him a shy smile as she released Gilost’s hand and stood. “Lady,” he greeted her with an inclination of his head as he took her place on the bed. Gilost had removed the arm which covered his eyes and was looking at Estel curiously through eyes that were still laced with pain.
“Lord Aragorn?” he whispered.
“Yes,” Estel replied as he gently began removing the bandage that covered the side of the Ranger’s head. He stopped when Gilost grabbed his hand, clasping it tightly. Surprised, Estel let go of the bandage and straightened up, his gaze shifting back to Gilost’s eyes to see that the curiosity there had changed to warmth and friendliness.
“I’m glad you’re here, my lord,” Gilost said quietly. “I was hoping that you would return soon.” He shifted on the bed to try and make himself more comfortable.
“I am glad to be back, Gilost,” Estel replied wondering how old this man was and if he was someone he had known when he was here as a child. “Did I… I do not like to ask this,” his said with a wry smile, “but I have no memory of my life here before. Did I know you then? I do not know how old you are,” he admitted.
Gilost started to laugh and then winced as the pain hit him and he clutched at his ribs. “No, my lord, you didn’t really know me. I’m thirty-four, so I was sixteen when you left. You would have known Gaerwen though,” he gestured towards his sister. Estel twisted around to see her and she nodded once.
“I’m a few years older than you, my lord, but your naneth and my naneth and the other women would take turns caring for us so of course I knew you then,” Gaerwen smiled. “It’s a small village and so all of us around your age knew you… at least a little bit.”
“How old are you?” Estel asked. He was finding it as difficult to guess the ages of his people as it was with the elves and he wondered if it would be the same with other men or just with the Dúnedain.
She was a little older than Estel would have thought; he had guessed she was about Halbarad’s age. He nodded and turned back to Gilost, “I need to check your injuries. I know Aunt Nimrie has done a good job with you, but I wanted to check on you as well.”
“Was it difficult finding the rest of the orcs, my lord?” Gilost asked as Estel finished removing the bandages.
It was some time before Estel answered him as he carefully checked the knot on Gilost’s temple. The swelling was much reduced and the cut was beginning to close. He looked up at Nimrie, “I do not think we need to keep this bandaged, it will be fine.” She nodded. Ignoring the cracked ribs as they would simply take time to heal, Estel moved down to look at the thigh injury. Estel slid aside the blanket and began to unwrap the bandage on Gilost’s leg, finally answering his question as he did so. “It was not too difficult, Gilost. I have been on patrols that were much more difficult,” he looked up and met the Ranger’s eyes briefly before beginning his examination of the wound. Gilost hissed almost inaudibly as Estel gently prodded the area around the stitches, relieved that there was no redness or sign of infection. He smiled his thanks at Nimrie as she handed him a small bowl of an already prepared salve and he smelled it deciding that it would work well to promote healing. Estel was starting to wonder why Nimrie considered herself lacking since everything he had observed spoke of a competent healer. After gently applying the salve to the long wound, Estel neatly bandaged the area and shifted his gaze back to the Ranger’s face, grimacing inwardly at what he had to tell the man. He had a feeling Gilost would not take the news well.
“This is going to take some time to heal, Gilost. I do not want you to walk on it for several days, though I doubt that you will feel much like walking around with the way your head and ribs are hurting.”
Gilost’s face paled, “Will I have a limp like my adar?” He could not imagine facing the rest of his life with an injury like his father’s and what that would do to his ability as a Ranger and his skill as a tracker.
“No, not if you allow it to heal properly. I want you to stay here until tomorrow and then I will have you carried home where you can rest for several more days.” Estel looked at him closely.
Understanding dawned on Gilost. “But my patrol will have left by then,” he protested. “I have to go with them, my lord. They need me and I’m sure I’ll be fine.” Gilost did not want to stay in Dolomar over the winter while the men of his patrol and the other two patrols were out protecting the people of Eriador.
“It will not be fine if you start walking on your leg before you should,” Estel said sternly. “You have a long life ahead of you and I will not allow you to cause permanent damage to yourself when I can help it.” His voice softened and he looked over at Caladel to find that the Ranger was now awake and was listening to their discussion. “I am sorry, Gilost, and I do not like the thought of sending Caladel’s patrol out one man short, either…”
“We’ll be fine, my lord,” Caladel’s deep voice interrupted him and Gilost jumped slightly on the bed, unaware that he had been listening.
Gilost closed his eyes and let out a long, deep sigh. “All right, Lord Aragorn. I really don’t want my leg to be damaged either, but I just don’t…” his voice trailed off as he was unable to explain what he felt. He cracked his eyelids open and gave his sister a small smile as she sat down on the bed opposite Estel taking her brother’s hand and squeezing it gently.
Estel stood and looked down at him with a thoughtful expression. “Perhaps, Gilost,” the Ranger’s eyes popped opened and Estel could read the hope there. “While you cannot go with your patrol, I will be leaving in a week or ten days to visit the other villages and I will need some men to accompany me and my uncle.” He did not look at Nimrie though he had already decided that Halbarad would also be coming. “You should be healed enough by that time to come with us.” Estel looked at Caladel, “You patrol around the South Downs along the Great East Road, do you not?” The man nodded and Estel turned back to Gilost. “We will not be going that far west so you will not be able to join them this winter, but I imagine that I will be gone for four months at least.”
“That’ll be fine, my lord. I’d be honored to accompany you,” Gilost said, smiling as he relaxed back against the pillows, relieved that he would be doing something for his new Chieftain.
Estel crossed over to look at Caladel’s injuries and he talked quietly with the patrol leader as he checked them. Both wounds were healing well and showed no sign of infection. After speaking with Nimrie they decided that he could rest just as well at home and Estel sent Caladithil off to speak with his nana to let her know that Caladel would be home shortly. After re-bandaging both wounds, Estel helped Caladel to his feet and held him steady for a moment until he made sure he had his balance. When he was satisfied that the Ranger could walk under his own power, Estel escorted him to his house and made sure that Caladel was lying down again before he left.
Standing outside Caladel’s house, Estel looked around for a moment wondering if there was a place where he could go and have some time alone. He needed time to sit and think about all that had occurred in the last few days. Glancing down towards the gate Estel saw that it was already closed and he assumed his uncle had ordered that because of the threat of orcs. Running his hand through his hair as he thought for a moment, he finally decided that the only places he could possibly be alone was in the stables or in his parent’s house. As he did not really want to go into the house again and wanting to check on his horse anyway, he headed towards the stables. He had not gone far when he was stopped by a call from Halhigal and he turned reluctantly towards his uncle and waited for the older man to join him.
“I need to speak with you, Aragorn. I hope I didn’t interrupt you.”
Estel shrugged, “I was just going to check on my horse.”
Halhigal’s discerning eyes and ears picked up something in Aragorn’s expression or in his voice and he realized that his nephew was looking for a place to be alone. He was not surprised, a lot had happened in the last few days and Aragorn struck him as someone that was used to having time alone to think things through.
“I’ll walk with you then.” Estel nodded. “One of the things I had planned for the feast last night was to give you your father’s star.” Estel stopped abruptly.
“You have it?”
“Yes,” Halhigal said slowly, wondering at Aragorn’s surprise. “I thought you knew… that your naneth or someone would have told you.”
Estel shook his head, “No, they did not,” he said softly as they resumed walking. “I thought it was lost because everything else was given to me by Adar,” he held up his hand and showed Halhigal the Ring of Barahir that he wore. “Well, almost everything,” Estel amended, thinking of the Scepter of Annúminas that he would not be given unless he actually became king.
Halhigal laid his hand on Aragorn’s shoulder. “It was decided that you should be given the star here amongst your people. It’s a very simple ceremony, Aragorn, but it has a lot of meaning to our people and as the Chieftain it seemed important, especially as you weren’t raised here.”
“I understand,” Estel gave his uncle a half smile. “I am glad that you have it… that I will have it.” He was surprised how much it meant to him – to have something that was Arathorn’s. Something more personal than the ring, something that all of the Dúnedain men wore.
“Yes, it’s been in your family for a long time, though I don’t know how many of your ancestors wore this particular star. Sírdhim might know.” They had reached the stables and walked down between the stalls until they reached Estel’s horse. He began brushing it as they continued talking. “Since we did not give you your star last night, I would like to do it this evening. Perhaps have a bonfire, it’s not that cold today and somehow it’s always more special when we do it outside.” Estel looked at him and shrugged, he knew nothing about the ceremony. “One thing has changed since last night, but I don’t think you’ll mind,” Halhigal said. “We have another star to give out now.”
“Whose? Halbarad’s?” Estel realized it must be his as he was the only young man in the village that was of the proper age and he had been on the patrol last night. It also explained the excitement he had sensed in him earlier.
Halhigal nodded, “Our tradition is that when a young man takes part in a patrol that is involved in killing orcs or other creatures of darkness then he has earned his star and becomes a full-fledged Ranger. Halbarad has been on patrols before, but none of them have ever encountered orcs. Of course, I knew before you arrived that you had gone with Lords Elladan and Elrohir many times and had earned your star long ago.”
Estel just smiled. “It will be good to have Halbarad and I receive our stars at the same time.” He returned his brush to the box, patting his horse before leaving the stall and walking back down the aisle. “I plan to take him with us when we visit the other villages.”
“I thought you would, we need someone else as well,” Halhigal said, frowning.
“Gilost will be going.” He explained at Halhigal’s questioning look. “He is too injured to leave with his patrol, but he should be well enough by the time we leave.”
“Caladel will be short then,” Halhigal said thoughtfully. “We could pull Dúrvain off of Dorlas’s patrol, the area they cover is a little safer,” Halhigal gave a wry smile. “But there is another patrol from Taurnand that is close to Dorlas’s area, whereas Caladel’s patrol is much more isolated. What do you think?”
Estel did not respond for several moments as he considered the implications of such a move and then he nodded, “It would seem the best way to handle it, Uncle. I will speak with Dúrvain and Dorlas tonight.” He slowed as they drew near his grandmother’s house, “Grandmother insists on making me new clothing. Though what I have is perfectly fine.”
Halhigal looked at his nephew for a moment and then nodded, “It doesn’t surprise me that she would want to do that, Aragorn. I think it’s her way of showing you she cares.”
Estel chuckled, “She said it was because I looked like an elf.”
“It could also be that, I’m never quite sure with her anymore, but I suspect it’s that she cares. You are Gilraen’s son and I doubt she’ll ever tell you she cares for you, but she does in her own way,” Halhigal laid his hand on Estel’s shoulder and pushed him gently toward Ivorwen’s door. “I’ll see you at supper.”
What followed was one of the strangest half hours Estel had ever known as his grandmother barely spoke to him the whole time he was with her. She simply took his measurements using a long leather string with some type of markings on it and wrote the numbers down on a piece of parchment muttering to herself the whole time. Estel was uncertain whether to say anything to her or not, but finally decided just to remain silent and let her start any conversations. When his grandmother appeared to be finished, Estel thanked her politely and headed for the door.
“Do you have a proper cloak for when you receive your star tonight?” she asked abruptly as Estel reached for the door handle.
“I have my spare cloak, Grandmother. My best one needs to be cleaned after last night.” Estel wondered why it mattered but supposed it was because it was an elven cloak.
“Wait there,” Ivorwen ordered, frowning. She disappeared into one of the bedrooms and returned rather quickly with a long cloak over her arm which made Estel suspect that she had thought about this and had it setting out for him. “Here,” she thrust it at Estel. “This was your grandfather’s but he never had a chance to wear it. You need a Dúnedain cloak to pin your star on.” She opened the door and shooed him outside without giving him a chance to respond, not even to say thank you. Estel stood looking at the door for a moment before he headed back to his uncle’s with a small smile on his lips.
As Halhigal had told Estel, the ceremony that signified the change of a young man into a Ranger, with all of the responsibilities that that entailed, was a simple one. Yet, Estel found it moving nonetheless. Perhaps it was because it was the first time he had seen any of the ceremonies of his people, or perhaps it was because he was to receive a star himself. A large bonfire was built in the fire pit near the center of the village soon after dark and all the villagers gathered around to listen. Even the children were quiet as Halhigal spoke, as if they sensed the importance of the occasion. Because of the death of the two young men several years ago, it had been a number of years since any stars had been bestowed. That the Chieftain was receiving his star also added to the specialness of the gathering.
Estel noticed that Halbarad was very solemn as he waited. The excitement he had shown earlier in the day had worn off and he wore a somber expression that Estel had not seen on him before. Halhigal spoke of the new Rangers’ responsibilities, which boiled down to two things that were very difficult to accomplish and cost the Rangers a great deal – to defend the people spread throughout Eriador from the evil creatures of darkness and to protect them from bandits who often stalked the roads in search of easy prey. He then called each of the young men forward one at a time.
“Halbarad, this was my father’s star,” Halhigal said as he pinned it to his son’s cloak. “May your heart be filled with courage as you go to serve and defend the people of this land. May the Valar protect you my son.” Halhigal kissed his son on the forehead and then embraced him tightly which Halbarad readily returned. Estel clasped his cousin’s arm when Halhigal released him.
“Aragorn son of Arathorn,” Halhigal said as he faced his Chieftain, his eyes solemn. “This was your father’s star.” He pinned it to Aragorn’s new cloak. “I remember when your father received this, Aragorn, standing not too far from here as Arador pinned it to his cloak. I know that if Arathorn were here to do this, he would be proud of you.” He saw Aragorn’s eyes glisten in the glow from the fire. “May your heart also be filled with courage as you go to serve not only the people of Eriador, but also our people. May the Valar protect you, Aragorn son of Arathorn, Heir of Isildur, and Chieftain of the Dúnedain.” Halhigal embraced his nephew firmly and nodded at his whispered thank you.
Estel stepped back next to Halbarad, his eyes fixed on the ground. He shivered, but not from the cool air. He realized he was grateful for the cloak his grandmother had given him, it was right that he was wearing something of the Dúnedain as he received his star. It surprised him how deeply affected he was by Halhigal’s words - that a simple ceremony could make him feel more connected with his people. Estel glanced at Halbarad when his cousin slipped his arm around his shoulder.
“I’m glad we got our stars together, Cousin. It just feels right somehow.”
“It does,” Estel nodded and then turned to greet the people who were starting to come and offer their congratulations to the two newest Rangers.
Reviewers: Thanks to everyone who reads the story and especially to those who review, I appreciate the encouragement. I will answer everyone by email if I have an address.