"Aragorn must you go?"
"I must, vanimelda. You know this. It is the only way we can be together, forever. Oh Arwen, nín melleth, you must understand! You are my love, forever and always,"
"Till the stars fall from the sky," Arwen finished tearfully.
Aragon smiled. "Exactly," he said, tenderly wiping away her tears.
A loving couple sat together in the privacy of the woods, surrounding the Elvish valley of Imladris.
Suddenly the man leapt to his feet, drawing his sword and pushing the Elven maiden to safety behind him. "Who's there," he cried, looking out of the sheltered nook where they sat. A small figure stepped out of the shadows, a Dwarf! "Gimli," exclaimed Aragorn in surprise. "What are you doing here, " he asked suspiciously.
The Dwarf blushed and looked down at the ground before answering.
"Aragorn, Lady Arwen," he said. "I had no intention of disturbing you. I was merely taking a walk, and I couldn't help overhearing the two of you speaking. I thought it would be very impolite of me not to inform you that you were not alone; so in accordance with this, I attempted to make my presence known by coughing." At this moment Gimli gave another cough, however Aragorn's healer's ear could tell him that this cough was not a forced cough to gain attention, but a rasping cough of an unattended cold.
Arwen too could tell that Gimli's cough was real, and she frowned. "Gimli," she said. "Are you well?"
The Dwarf quickly pasted a smile on his face. "Yes, m'lady. I'm fine."
Even as he spoke, another cough burst from his lips, causing him to double over in pain.
"No, you are not, indeed!" exclaimed Aragorn, lunging forward to help support Gimli as coughs racked the small body. "How long have you been coughing like this," he asked, worriedly.
Gimli finally stopped coughing and glared at Aragorn balefully. "I'm fine, I tell you," he protested.
Aragorn and Arwen raised identical eyebrows and looked at each other askance. Turning back to Gimli, they spoke as one. "You are not!" they said firmly.
Gimli simply glared at them.
Moving forward, the man and the Elven maiden each took one of the Dwarf's elbows. "Come, friend Gimli," said Arwen. "Let us escort you back to the House, and the healing rooms."
Gimli was about to protest more, but Arwen held up a hand, winking at Aragorn over his head.
"If you are worried about inconveniencing my father," she said blithely. "I would be happy to examine you myself."
At this statement, Gimli's face went completely white, and he looked as if he might faint. He did not faint however, probably thinking that if he did, Arwen might feel obliged to carry out her offer.
"No thank you, Lady Arwen," he stammered quickly. "That will not be necessary. However you are correct in thinking that I should hate to inconvenience your father, Master Elrond. Perhaps I should simply return to my chambers."
"That's a splendid idea, Gimli," said Aragorn. "If you do not wish to inconvenience Master Elrond, and do not relish the idea of being tended to by Lady Arwen, then I shall attend you myself, and in the privacy of your own chambers."
Gimli looked flabbergasted. Aragorn and Arwen took advantage of his momentary silence to begin walking back to the House, Gimli held tightly between them.
They had almost reached the House when Gimli suddenly wrenched his arms free and planted himself firmly on the ground.
Aragorn turned around in exasperation. "Come along, Gimli," he ordered impatiently. Gimli just glared. "Come on," Aragorn repeated.
"No," the Dwarf said.
"Why ever not? You are not well, and since you do not wish to inconvenience Master Elrond and likewise the Lady Arwen, I shall examine you myself."
"You," exclaimed Gimli in astonishment. "You are no healer! You're nothing but a scruffy Ranger!"
Aragorn stared at the Dwarf in shock for a moment then with a shuddering cry he spun away and disappeared into the dark shadows of the trees.
Arwen would have followed the man, but Gimli started coughing again and she had to support the Dwarf, else he would have collapsed from the intensity of the coughing.
When Gimli could breath again, he started to ask Arwen why Aragorn had run away, but the elleth silenced him with a look. Standing up straight, she took the Dwarf's hand, as if he were a child, and walked briskly towards the House. Gimli would have protested, but another look from Arwen silenced him instantly.
She dragged him quickly along passageways, down stairs, through more passages, and at last into a large open room, with shelves lining the walls, and passages going off in several directions. A dark haired Elf was coming from one of these passages, Master Elrond himself!
"Ada," said Arwen. "Gimli here has managed to get himself sick, and has not told anyone." She glared at the Dwarf coldly.
Elrond noticed this, but did not comment on it. "Oh, has he now," he remarked, raising one eyebrow. Gimli had the decency to blush, but then broke off in another coughing fit. After it had past, Elrond laid a hand on the Dwarf's shoulder.
"Come along, Master Dwarf," he said firmly. "I think we'd better have a look at you." He started steering the unwilling Gimli towards a passage with it's door open.
Gimli tried to twist about to speak to Arwen, but it was no use; Arwen had already left.
A short time later found Arwen Evenstar running through the corridors of Imladris. She could not find Aragorn, and had decided to enlist the help of his long time friend, Legolas Greenleaf, Prince of Mirkwood. Reaching the Prince's chamber's, she did not even stop to knock, but burst in, slamming the door shut behind her.
A golden haired Elf sat cross legged on the bed, polishing a beautiful bow. Seeing Arwen's distress, he leapt to his feet.
"Great Valar, Arwen," he cried. "What is wrong?"
Arwen threw herself into his arms. "Oh, Legolas," she sobbed. "I cannot find Estel!"
Legolas's brow furrowed quickly but he gently soothed the troubled elleth. "There, there," he said gently. "Can you tell me what happened?"
Slowly, Arwen explained that she and Aragorn had been outside together, when Gimli had come across them. Aragorn had realized the Dwarf was unwell, and wanted to take him inside to examine him; but the ungrateful little beast had said that Aragorn was nothing but a scruffy Ranger!” With this last exclamation, Arwen burst into tears anew.
Legolas absentmindedly soothed her, but inside he was livid. How dare that little creature speak to his friend that way! Ai, but he would kill the little beast!
Legolas could feel that Arwen had almost stopped crying, so he gently led her over to a comfortable chair. "Stay here, Arwen," he said, pulling a blanket around her, tenderly. "I will go to find Estel." With a last pat on her shoulder, the Prince hurried from the room.
Outside the House, a breeze was blowing. The last leaves of Autumn were being carried to the ground in it's gentle caress, flashes of golden red shining brilliantly in the afternoon sun against the blue sky. Truly this was a perfect day.
Legolas sighed. Why had that little beast had to spoil it all, he wondered angrily. He shook his head. Thinking like this would not help him find Aragorn; there would be time enough for that later. Thinking for a moment, Legolas smiled slightly. He knew were Aragorn would be! As young Estel, Aragorn had discovered a small clearing not far from the safety of the House. Many great Beeches formed a sheltered alcove, with the most stately Beech of all rising in the very center; perfect for climbing and hiding in, if one needed to be alone.
Walking briskly, Legolas quickly neared the place. To his surprise, he could hear a sound as if someone was weeping uncontrollably coming from the midst of the trees. Approaching silently, the Prince peered through the trees.
Aragorn sat on the ground at the foot of the great Beech. His back was to Legolas, his knees were pulled up to his chest, with his arms wrapped around them tightly. The man was weeping so much that he did not sense Legolas's presence till the Elf touched him on his shoulder. Aragorn sprang to his feet, his hand going to his sword. Even as Legolas took a hasty step back, Aragorn recognized his old friend and dropped once more to the ground, burying his face in his hands.
Legolas knelt next to him. "What is the matter, mellon nín?" he asked, deciding not to reveal for the moment that Arwen had already told him what had happened. Aragorn shook his head, but did not raise his face. "Come Estel, you used to tell me everything."
Aragorn jerked his head up. "I am not Estel! I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, Chieftain of the Rangers, and a scruffy Ranger myself!" After this angry outburst, the man lowered his head and leaned into Legolas's waiting arms. "I'm sorry, mellon nín," he said after a moment. "I'm not angry at you. What Gimli said just hurt so much."
"It's all right Estel," said Legolas. "I know you are not angry at me."
"I thought I had left that behind when I came back. Always before, I've been safe in Imladris. People would just accept me for who I am. Not ridicule me for what I seem to be."
Legolas looked at him askance. "Always," he queried.
Aragorn looked away. "Well, nearly always," he said quietly. "It's rather ridiculous. In order to be who I really am, I have to look scruffy, like a nobody. But, this very scruffiness that allows me to protect people, turns them against me."
"Who you really are?" Legolas raised the man's chin and looked him in the eye. "Who are you really?"
Aragorn gazed back at him. "I'm not sure any more. Once, I thought I was Estel Elrondion. Then I found out that I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and to become Ellessar, the high king of Gondor and Anor. I have been called Strider, Dunadan, Thorongil, and many other names not so nice." He bowed his head. "I don't really know who I am anymore."
“Do you know who you wish to be?" Legolas asked gently.
Aragorn thought for a moment. "Not anymore. Once I thought I could simply stay Estel, then I understood that I had to become Aragorn. If I become Ellessar, I stop being Aragorn; If I do not, then Middle Earth is doomed, as surely as if I had handed the Ring to Sauron myself." He stared at the ground. "I just don't know."
Legolas did not know what to tell his friend to comfort him, so instead of speaking, he simply pulled the man's head onto his shoulder, and held him gently.
Aragorn soon drifted off to sleep in the tender embrace of his friend. Legolas gently stroked the dark head, noting with sorrow the grey hairs already beginning to show about the edges.
"Oh, Estel," he thought. "You will always be Estel to me, no matter what anyone else calls you."
Suddenly to Legolas's surprise, two dark haired Elves stepped out of the trees, they were the son's of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir.
Legolas cocked an eyebrow at them, but did not speak in order not to awaken Aragorn. The twins strode forward together and knelt down simultaneously.
"What happened," Elladan asked quietly.
"Didn't Arwen tell you?" Legolas whispered in surprise.
The twins shook their heads. Quickly, Legolas explained the situation. As he spoke, the twin's faces grew dark with barely controlled anger.
After Legolas had finished speaking, Elrohir shook his head. " I wish we had known this earlier," he said. "Ada sent us to find Estel, Gimli is very sick."
Legolas shook his head in disbelief. "Your father want's Estel to help heal a Dwarf who forced the greatest man on Arda to run crying into the woods?"
Elrohir could not withstand the force of Legolas's anger and turned away, but Elladan continued to stare at Legolas." Yes," he said simply.
Legolas shook his head again.
"Legolas!" exclaimed Elladan shaking the golden haired Elf's shoulder. "No matter what the little beast has done, it would not be right to allow him to die!"
Legolas looked up in shock. "Die," he murmured in confusion.
Elladan groaned. "Yes, die," he said quietly.
Confusion covered Legolas's face. "But I thought Estel said he only had a cold."
That's what Ada thought also," Elrohir put in. "But once Gimli let himself be examined, Ada found out that he had a very bad case of pneumonia. It got so bad that Gimli coughed himself into a coma!"
"But why does he need Estel?" asked Legolas in concern.
"Ada has tried to bring Gimli out of the coma, but he cannot reach him," said Elladan. "Ada thinks that Estel may have a better chance."
"And if Estel cannot reach him either?"
"The Dwarf will die this night."
Legolas bowed his head. "Oh, Estel," he murmured into his friend's ear. "I'm so sorry."
"Come, Legolas," Elrohir said gently. "We must wake Estel."
Legolas sighed, but gently shook Aragorn. "Estel," he said in a clear voice. "Estel, wake up!"
Aragorn slowly raised his head. "What is it 'Las?" he asked.
Legolas grinned at the use of the childhood nickname, but sobered. "Come Estel. Your father needs you to help him."
"My father is dead," Aragorn said, lowering his head again.
The twins gasped in horror, but Legolas had had enough. "Estel," he shouted, shaking the man's shoulders roughly. "Your father is not dead, you know this."
Aragorn shook his head. "I am Aragorn son of Arathorn. My father is dead." He turned his face away and would not look at them.
Elrohir knelt down. "Estel, what of Ada? What of Elladan and I? Would you deny us the hope of you?" he asked angrily.
Aragorn raised his head, tears streaming from his eyes once more. "What do you mean," he asked tearfully.
"You are Estel," Elladan replied. "You will always be Estel. No matter what other people call you, no matter what you say, you are Estel. You are Hope."
Elrohir laid his hand on the man's shoulder. "And as long as you are Estel, we are your brothers, and Ada is your ada."
"Then I am the luckiest man in the whole of Arda!"
With one accord, the three Elves wrapped their arms around the man, and all embraced.
After they finally released him, Aragorn wiped his eyes. "Now," he said. "Why did Ada need me?" He could not understand why his brothers and friend suddenly grew grave and silent. "What is it," he asked in surprise.
"Estel," began Elladan, but he could not continue.
Elrohir patted his brother on the shoulder, and slowly explained. "Gimli is in a coma," he said.
"Ada his tried to pull him out, but cannot reach him. He said that if you cannot reach Gimli and pull him out of the coma, Gimli will die this very night."
Aragorn closed his eyes. The Elves watched him with baited breath. After a moment he spoke.
"So," he said. "I should risk my life, attempting to connect with the mind of a Dwarf who probably despises me, to save his life." He opened his eyes. "What are we waiting for?"
The Elves breathed a sigh of relief. Everyone rose to their feet and started back to the House.
When they reached the House it was almost time for dinner.
Aragorn urged the others to go eat but they would not leave him.
As they entered the healing rooms, Elrond greeted them anxiously.
"Estel, ion nín! I was afraid you would never get here!"
Aragorn ran to his father. "I'm here now, Ada. Where is Gimli?"
"Come," the Elven lord said, spinning around and entering a private room, Aragorn on his heels. The three younger Elves followed quickly.
Inside the room, Elrond stood aside and allowed Aragorn to approach the bed where the Dwarf lay. Gimli's eyes were closed and his face was as pale as the pillowcase. Aragorn sat down on the edge of the bed. Taking Gimli's hand, he closed his eyes. Elrond cast a handful of glossy green leaves into a bowl of steaming water standing on the table next to the bed. A living freshness spread throughout the small room. Aragorn noticed the scent and breathed deeply.
Several minutes past, and to the anxious watchers it seemed nothing was happening but deep in the vales of shadow, a tall dark haired man and a short red haired Dwarf walked together.
A great time had past since Aragorn had first closed his eyes, and Elrond was debating with himself whether or not to bring the man back to the present by force, when several things happened at once. Gimli gave a loud cry, jerked suddenly upwards, then fell back on the pillows, breathing deeply. Aragorn cried out in the same moment Gimli did, then collapsed on top of the bed.
The three young Elves leapt forward with a cry. Pulling Aragorn off of Gimli, they rolled him over to make certain the man was alive, he was. All breathed a sigh of relief. Elrohir grabbed the bowl of water containing the leaves and held it in front of Aragorn's face until the man began drawing deep breaths again.
While his sons took care of Aragorn, Lord Elrond checked Gimli. The Dwarf was no longer in the coma, but was sleeping peacefully. Reassured, the Elf turned away from Gimli to check on Aragorn.
The man had sat up, and was sitting on the edge of the bed, leaning against Legolas who sat next to him to support him. Elrohir still held the bowl of steaming water for Aragorn to breath from, while Elladan stood next to the bed looking helpless.
Lord Elrond smiled. It appeared that everything was alright after all!
He didn't think that he'd spoken aloud, but from the glances being exchanged between the four friends, he guessed that maybe things were not all as they seemed.
Raising an eyebrow, he fixed the four of them in a searching stare. "What is it," he asked.
The Elves and the man looked at each other, and burst into alternating tears and laughter.
Elrond looked at them for a moment, then turned and left the room, shaking his head. He would never understand those sons of his!
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