Late December, 2930 Third Age
Centuries ago, Elladan and I began our campaign of righteous wrath — vowing to defend all Free Peoples after having failed our mother. But, these days, we continue the campaign in cold necessity.
Creatures of the Dark — Orcs, trolls, evil wolves — increase everywhere we ride, encroaching on Eriador, menacing the passes. They direct special malice towards the Dúnedain, our distant kinsmen, who founder under frequent assault.
We fight a long defeat.
Now Arador is slain, Chieftain less than twenty years. We arrived in time to fell the troll, too late to prevent his death.
How we weary of bearing bitter tidings!
"We raised a cairn over your father's grave in the Coldfells."
I leave much unsaid: Arador's corpse lies hidden among brambles near a rock-fall — the earth too hard to dig; the stones are heaped high enough to hinder scavenging animals, but not to draw attention from passing Orcs... except by smell.
No need to further disquiet Gilraen, great with child.
Grimly, Arathorn nods understanding.
Long has he captained the Rangers; he has borne witness that vigilance no longer forestalls sudden slaughter by the gathering forces of Darkness.
Now Chieftain, he well knows the sacrifices his people make in the Wild.
Elrond's sons are welcomed as brothers-in-arms by Rangers, but not so by wives. Too often are they harbingers of widowhood.
This time, 'tis not Arathorn lying slain, but his father. I stand beside my husband in support.
"And the other men?" he inquires, stern duty overcoming personal grief.
"All live, but four are wounded," Elladan replies. Looking at me, he adds, "including Gilbarad."
Still, I am relieved that Arathorn yet lives; Grandfather's injuries cannot distract from my resolve that this baby will know his father.
But by Arathorn's loss, he becomes Chieftain untimely.
My father's forebodings begin to come true.
"How fares my grandfather?" I ask.
"Broken bones," Elrohir replies, "but Gilbarad mends quickly. Ivorwen sends word: she will help care for him — you need not travel there in your condition."
Always have I chafed at restrictions, yet my mother knows I tire easily with this heavy womb.
But I will visit Arathorn's mother. Andreth received me warmly before our betrothal, and brought me to the herb-women; they pronounced me robust, advising red meat and bitter teas to bear strong sons.
She it was who taught me the additional duties of an Heir's wife: appearing ever-hopeful, receiving visitors, comforting widows.
"How did it happen?"
"Hill-trolls set off a rockslide to waylay the patrol," Elrohir reports. "One charged straight at Arador — tossing aside like rag dolls men trying to protect him — grabbed him, and fled.
"Once we reached the others, we pursued the troll.... Elladan shot out its eyes, but your father died in my arms."
Elladan adds, "Gilbarad was sorely shaken; he said 'twas as if the trolls planned to seize Arador, and lay in wait."
Dread grips me. "How could dull-witted creatures act with such purpose?"
Elrohir looks grave.
"We fear the Enemy's servants now target the Heirs of Isildur."
The men depart to speak privately; Dúnedain think to keep secrets from their womenfolk. And we return the favour....
My father foretold that Arathorn would soon become Chieftain, yet be short-lived. Young he may think me, but I know my primary duty: to produce the next Heir, ensuring hope for our people.
I may not bear many children by Arathorn; more's the need for the haste counselled by my mother.
Thus I consulted the wise women who preserve, from mother to daughter, the potent arts of birthing medicine from Númenor.
'Tis their herb-lore that protects the male line of Isildur.