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Estel I Was Called
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
Estel I Was Called

Aragorn sat on the bed and ran his hand over the rich fur pelts that must have served his parents as blankets. This had been their room before his father's too-early death had driven his mother to seek refuge with the elves. This room would have been their sanctuary against the harsh world outside. How would they have spent those precious few nights they had together? Aragorn could never know – he had only the vaguest memory of his father – but he imagined Arathorn stretched out in the chair by the fire, telling Gilraen stories from the road while Gilraen mended his socks. Somehow Aragorn was sure she would never give away that task. Her own handiwork would keep Arathorn's feet warm and dry, until the road brought him home again.

But Arathorn had ridden off, and had not returned. If he had lived.... Aragorn brushed roughly at his eyes before any tears could form. If Arathorn had lived, then his son would not have grown up thinking he was some waif at Elrond's table. He would have known the truth as soon as he could understand it. Instead, Aragorn had grown up with a lie. His inheritance as Isildur's heir had been kept from him. This room was his by right, as was the house and all the Angle.

Yet he could not claim it. Not yet. To name himself as heir would bring the Enemy's full strength upon the Angle. He knew that. Much as it pained him, his few belongings aired out in a much smaller room down the hall.

He looked down at the blanket again, and frowned. In Imladris they would never sleep under such… He stopped himself before the thought had even fully formed in his mind. He must not allow himself to think such things. The Angle was his home now, and only a fool or a child would moon for what could never be his again.

Still, for all that he missed the soft fabric of the quilts he had known since childhood, Aragorn could not fault these pelts. The cloth lining underneath was soft, and the fur was less scratchy even than the trim around his cloak. Clearly, someone had taken great care in fashioning it. Yet for all that it was well made and well cared for, it was not new. Could this be the same blanket his father and his mother had lain under when they had shared this bed?

Aragorn knew he should not think too much about his father. He could not imagine a man he had never known. What color had his eyes been, that man who had sat by the hearth on winter evenings? Would he have been a harsh taskmaster, if he had lived to teach his son how to wield a sword? He swallowed hard against the lump in his throat. He cursed whatever fate had taken his father from him so soon.

For all the pride he took in knowing he came from such a high lineage, his inheritance as his father's son seemed pitifully poor. He longed for memories. A kiss on the brow, a steadying hand on his arm, anything! But all that remained for him was cold metal. A silver star. A ring he could not even wear openly without declaring his heritage. A broken sword.

And a name. It was an inheritance of a sort, and more personal than rings and swords passed down a long line of fathers. He longed to shout it to the heavens, but even that was denied him. He had been warned never to say his father's name out loud, even here in the heart of his new home.

"Aragorn, son of Arathorn," he whispered to himself defiantly. A tingle traveled down his spine. He knew that he should not say that name aloud, knew the Dunedain must have had a reason to hide him away. But he had felt so brave when he had called out his lineage to the trees of Rivendell! He was Aragorn, son of Arathorn, last of a long line of kings. He wanted to feel as brave as he had felt when he declared himself in the woods of Rivendell, and he could not wholely bury the urge that built inside him. "Arathorn," he repeated in a husky voice a little louder than a whisper. "I am Aragorn, Arathorn's son, Isildur's Heir, Lord of—"

The door opened without warning, and Aragorn fell silent. His cousin Halbarad stood in the doorway, a tray of bread and cheese in his hand. He stared at Aragorn, his eyes fierce with rage, before he walked across the room and set the tray down heavily without speaking a word. Aragorn crossed the room and closed the door before joining Halbarad in the chairs by the cold fireplace.

For a moment Halbarad stood still before the table, facing the wall; Aragorn guessed from his stiff posture that his cousin was trying to master his anger. When he turned to face Aragorn his face resembled the mask that most of the rangers wore so naturally.

"Estel, you…"

"Do not name me thus," Aragorn said in a voice that was almost a hiss.

"Estel, surely you cannot be so slow-witted!" Halbarad continued, heedless of Aragorn's objections. "Elrond's sons must have taught you the value of stealth, I saw you ride with them. Yet you would live among your father's folk, and join the Rangers with his star upon your brow—how can you name your heritage so lightly? Do you even begin to understand the price we have paid for your secret, in the blood of good men? You will not make a mockery of their deaths."

Suddenly what he had deemed bravery a moment ago felt more like foolishness. How many goodwives had been made widows to protect the secret that Isildur's heir still lived? And now he would move into his father's house, and openly declare his father's name as he had? Perhaps the Dunedain were faithful, but the Enemy kept many animals in his service. It was foolish to declare himself where any passing magpie could hear.

And yet.... Aragorn rubbed his thumb and forefinger over the skin where the Ring of Barahir would have been, if he had worn it. His hand felt naked somehow, though he had only worn the wing openly for the few days before he had left Imladris. As Estel he had been fatherless and powerless, but as Aragorn...!

He raised his head again and looked at Halbarad. He hoped his contrition was plain in his eyes; he meant it and would not take their sacrifice for granted again, but the hurt of his childhood name—and all of the secrecy and betrayal that word Estel called to mind—still weighed too heavily for him to voice an apology.

"Do not name me thus," Aragorn said again, this time in a calmer voice. "Estel! I have little enough hope for myself and can spare none for you or anyone else."

Halbarad nodded somberly and sat down beside Aragorn. "As you wish it." He lifted his hand and moved to place it on Aragorn's shoulder, but Aragorn pursed his lips and so Halbarad took a chunk of cheese from the tray instead. Aragorn wanted the kinsman's embrace with all his being, he so longed for a home now that Imladris felt foreign to him, but he could not accept it from Halbarad.

"Est—" Halbarad began before catching himself. "Cousin, I could not have told you. I wanted to, but it was not my secret to tell."

Aragorn nodded mutely but could not bring himself to look at Halbarad's face just yet. He and his cousin were of like age, and Halbarad had fostered in Imladris for a few years himself—and he had never spoken a word of Aragorn's heritage. Surely a close kinsman would know that Gilraen's son was Arathorn's as well?

"I will not name you as your father's son," Halbarad said after a moment, "and you will not use the name the Elves gave you. How shall I introduce you to our folk, if not as Estel? I must call you something."

Argorn took a bite of bread, as much to buy time as anything. "Can you not devise some name for me?" he asked.

Halbarad nodded. "You will need more than a name, for the Dunedain are a curious folk." The skin around his eyes crinkled a little, and Aragorn guessed this was as close as rangers came to smiling. "Our close family will know the truth, of course, but we cannot name you openly as even Gilraen's son." He ran his fingers through his beard for a moment. "I have an uncle serving under Turgon, south in Gondor. His oldest son would be about your age, I believe."

Aragorn looked over at Halbarad and, while he guessed some ire might still show on his face, at least he met Halbarad's gaze. "And what is this distant kinsman's name?" he asked.

"Would Halbeleg suit you?" Halbarad asked.

"Halbeleg." Aragorn tested the name on his tongue. "Aye.... aye, it will do."

The skin around Halbarad's eyes crinkled again, and this time he did lay his hand on Aragorn's shoulder. "Cousin, I know this homecoming may not be as you would wish it, but the Angle welcomes you home." Aragorn looked at him doubtfully, but Halbeleg did not press the point. "Eat up, Halbeleg, and when you have had your fill I will take you to the armory."

Aragorn swallowed the bite of cheese in his mouth. "Why?" he asked. "I have a sword."

Halbarad sighed heavily, though Aragorn caught a sparkle of mirth in his eyes. "An elvish blade. If you think an Orc would not mark a blade crafted by Elrond's smiths, then you know little of rangering. Truly, cousin, you have much to learn about dissembling."

Aragorn nodded and took another slice of bread. For all that Halbarad had bruised his pride by not telling him his true heritage years ago, he was a friendly face in his new home, and a much-needed guide. For the moment, Aragorn decided that that was enough.

~~~

Notes:

"Then Aragorn, being now the Heir of Isildur, was taken with his mother to dwell in the house of Elrond; and Elrond took the place of his father and came to love him as a son of his own. But he was called Estel, that is 'Hope', and his true name and lineage were kept secret at the bidding of Elrond; for the Wise then knew that the Enemy was seeking to discover the Heir of Isildur, if any remained upon earth.

"But when Estel was only twenty years of age, it chanced that he returned to Rivendell after great deeds [...] That day therefore Elrond called him by his true name, and told him who he was and whose son."

~*~

"'Estel I was called,' [Aragorn] said; 'but I am Aragorn, Arathorn's son, Isildur's Heir, Lord of the Dunedain.'"

(Both quotes are from "The Tale of Aragorn of Arwen", Appendix A)

Halbarad's name for Aragorn is my own invention comes from the "Hal" portion of Halbarad's own name and "Beleg", a First-Age elf. It also happens to be the name of an OMC from another story, but there's no connection between the two names.

Thanks to Elen Kortirion with the help researching fur pelts, and Agape4Gondor and annmarwalk for the beta assistance.


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