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19
Great Expectations

Author: Linda Hoyland
Title: Great Expectations
Rating: PG
Theme: Hit the books
Elements: Great Expectations
Beta: Virtuella and Raksha
Author's Notes: This is a sequel to “A Proper Man for Summer.
Summary: We know that Aragorn returned to his people soon after he came of age, but what did they think of the young Chieftain?
Word Count: 1,005
The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. This story is written for pleasure not profit.


~~~

Great Expectations

Even for a fine afternoon, the village square was unusually crowded. Some people made half-hearted attempts to go about their daily business, whereas others simply huddled in groups talking. The women were dressed in their best finery, while the men had polished their gear until it sparkled.

“If only I'd been able to go to the Midsummer celebration,” one young woman sighed, “but with mother being ill with a fever I had to stay at home. I've heard he is fair as an Elf!”

“He is indeed,” said her companion. “When he greeted me, my legs trembled.”

“What did he say?” her friend asked, a trifle jealously.

“That he was pleased to meet me, nothing more. But his eyes! They were like storm clouds with the sun behind them!”

Behind the girls their mothers were equally engrossed in conversation.

“He seemed most impressed by my lass,” said one. “After all, he will be in need of a wife and we have the blood of Arador in our veins through my great grandmother. I have heard that the Chieftain's mother is remaining with the Elves, so he will need a woman to take care of him.”

“Do not forget that Arathorn was well advanced in years before he married,” said her companion. “Besides what do we know about this lad save that he was brought up by the Elves? He might think himself too good for the likes of us and go straight back to them. I have heard tales that they can have hot baths whenever they please and they have soft coverings on their floors.”

“I would not mind living in such splendour, neither would my lass.”

A small group of old men sat outside the village inn. They were sipping their ale, but their eyes were on the road.

“I remember his father well,” said one. “A fine man, though a stern one.”

“I've never seen his like as a warrior,” said another. “For all that, the Orcs got him in the end. We shall see how long this lad of his lasts. Not long I wager if he's been brought up soft and pampered.”

“They say the Elves call him Hope”, said another greybeard.

“What hope is there left for our people?” said the oldest of the group. “Each year we grow fewer. Still it will be pleasant to see a young face around. But where will he live? The Chieftain's house is derelict. We all believed that Gilraen and her son were dead.”

“How can we be sure then that this boy is Arathorn's true heir? Maybe we should be content with Halbarad as our chieftain and forget our hopes of Isildur's line?”

“Mistress Ivorwen has seen the lad and swears he is her true grandson. We can rely on her word.”

“Aye that we can.” The old men all nodded their heads in agreement.

000

“Maybe I should sweep the floor once more?” Inzilbeth fretted. She stood outside her house together with her son and her mother. The two women never took their eyes off the road. Halbarad busied himself sharpening his sword, though even he stole an occasional glance towards the North.

“He is your nephew, child, Gilraen’s lad, not the High King of the Noldor!” Ivorwen chuckled.

“But living so long amongst those Elves, he will expect high standards!” Inzilbeth protested.

“He's just another lad, mother,” Halbarad sounded exasperated.

“Maybe he would have been better off staying with you?” Inzilbeth looked doubtfully at her mother.

“I am old, child, Aragorn needs to be with younger folk. Ah, it will gladden my heart to have my grandson home again!”

“I have always been here!”

“There is no need to be jealous, Halbarad. You have led us well since you came of age, but Aragorn is Arathorn's son. You owe him your obedience.”

“And he shall have it. I just cannot see why there is so much fuss about him. Granted, he is skilled with sword and bow and well versed in lore, but he is just a boy, not some great hero out of legend!”

“My foresight tells me that he might become one,” Ivorwen said gravely. “I know at present you see him as an unwelcome guest you would liefer not have to share your room with, but who knows what the future will bring?”

000

“He is coming!” the guard at the postern shouted.

The chatter abruptly ceased. The sound of distant hoof beats grew louder. The villagers hastened to greet the new arrivals.

The new Chieftain was alone apart from the Rangers who had been sent to be his escort. He rode a fine horse, but his clothing was simple and unadorned save for the star emblem of the Dúnedain.

“By Elbereth!” whispered one of the oldest women. “It is as if Arathorn himself had come back!”

The people bowed their heads and placed their hands on their hearts in the traditional sign of loyalty, a few anxious mothers prompting their young offspring to do the same.

Aragorn dismounted from his horse, but kept hold of the reins. Ivorwen thought she detected a glint of fear in the clear grey eyes, but it was swiftly mastered and replaced by a warm open smile.” My people,” said Aragorn. “It gladdens my heart to be here amongst you. I owe much to Master Elrond, but this is the true home of my longfathers. I know, you have great expectations; whether or not I shall meet them only time will tell. I can but give you my solemn oath that I will serve my people with all my heart, soul and strength. I have much to learn, I know, and hope you will teach me that I might live up to the example of my forebears. We live in dark times, yet there is always light somewhere in that darkness.”

The villagers cheered. They did not know the young man yet, but there was something in his warm grey eyes and noble bearing that filled them with new hope.

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