A Morning Star ~ Chapter 4 of 18 - The End of a Quest
Chapter 2: The Road West
Chapter 3: Questions and Answers
Chapter 4: The End of a Quest
Recap: Ariya has discovered that Lein, the smith of Ridden, is her half-brother on her father's side. He told her that orcs had killed her parents years ago and taken her father's ring. Now she has set out with Gandalf to Minas Tirith, hoping to find more information about the ring in the library of the White City.
The journey to Gondor was long but rather uneventful. Gandalf and Ariya talked little, and Ariya was content to simply watch the wondrous new lands that they found themselves traveling through. As they neared the valley of Rivendell, Gandalf choose to ride around it without ever asking Ariya. It was as if he knew that she was not ready to return until she had found her answers.
The only real excitement they experienced during the journey was in the Misty Mountains. Gandalf had warned her that orcs lived throughout the mountains, but he chose a path which he believed the orcs seldom traveled. However, a small band of orcs did spot them. Luckily, Gandalf had a sword with him, and Ariya's shooting was much more accurate than when the highway robbers had attacked her. They soon drove the orcs away and crossed the mountains without further incident.
They stopped in Lórien after crossing the mountains. Ariya had heard stories about the elves of Lórien and was excited to actually be able to meet them. She found the forest beautiful and began to wonder if there wasn't a bit of wood-elf in her. But after a few weeks' stay, her restlessness returned, and she was anxious to arrive at Minas Tirith and hopefully find the answers to her questions.
When they finally arrived in Gondor, it was winter. They stayed the night in the house of a farmer that Gandalf knew. It never ceased to amaze Ariya that Gandalf seemed to know someone no matter where he went. After the farmer had gone to bed, Gandalf softly knocked on Ariya's door and asked to speak with her.
"Tomorrow we will arrive in Minas Tirith, the White City," he told her. "I am known simply as the Grey Pilgrim in these parts; a harmless lore-master and nothing more. I will say that you are my apprentice, so that the steward will hopefully grant you leave to the library as well. Continue to disguise your elven features--the people of Gondor are somewhat leery of the elves." Gandalf then gave her a brief history of the kings and stewards of Gondor, so that she would not address the steward as "king."
The next morning, Ariya donned a pale blue dress that she had purchased during their journey specifically for this occasion. It was trimmed with silver and complemented her grey-blue eyes perfectly. She braided part of her hair and pinned it up, covering her ears, and let the rest fall across her shoulders.
When they arrived at Minas Tirith, Ariya was awestruck by the magnificent city. The late afternoon sun shone on the white city, and it looked as if the buildings and towers were glowing with an internal fire. Before long, Ariya found herself standing with Gandalf before the steward. Gandalf explained that Ariya was his apprentice, although he called her by her Elvish name of Arelen, which puzzled her. The steward eyed her suspiciously, no doubt surprised to learn of the Grey Pilgrim's female apprentice. Finally the steward allowed them access to the library.
Two guards led them to the library, and as she walked through the door, Ariya was amazed at the vast amount of books, scrolls, and papers stored in the large room. Ariya and Gandalf spent several days perusing the records in the library. Ariya never asked Gandalf what he was looking for, instead concentrating on finding information about Ambilë's ring.
On the fourth day since arriving at Minas Tirith, Ariya suddenly cried, "Gandalf, I have found it!" Gandalf cringed at the use of his name, but said nothing since no guards were about.
"What is it?" he asked.
"It is a scroll dated toward the end of the Second Age, after the destruction of Númenóre," she replied. She then summarized the information in the scroll. It seemed that many years ago, an elf named Lómion fell into the service of the Dark Lord Sauron. The scroll did not explain why the elf decided to serve Sauron, but it did state that Lómion soon wished to rival him, deeming himself as powerful as the dark lord. He fashioned himself a ring in the manner that the elven smiths had created the rings of power. However, Lómion was not as skilled, and while his ring did contain a certain evil, it was not as powerful. He led a small rebellion against Sauron, but was quickly defeated. Lómion was killed and the ring was lost.
"The description of the ring matches perfectly with what Lein said," Ariya stated, concluding her story. "It does not say what became of the ring after Lómion's death... but I suppose all that matters is that Ambilë eventually found it."
"Do you feel that you have found the answers you were seeking?" Gandalf asked, studying her closely.
"I will never find all of the answers," Ariya replied, surprisingly calm. "But I have confirmed that Ambilë's ring was evil. I do not know what sort of power the ring had over my parents, and I cannot blame them for failing to resist the temptation, for I do not know what I would do in their situation. I can only thank them that they sent me to Rivendell, and that now my search for them has led me to my brother."
Gandalf raised his eyebrows, amazed that she was so calm and reserved after all the emotional turmoil she had experienced in the past several months. It was clear to him that she had been thinking about these matters for a long time, and had already reached some of her conclusions before reading the scroll.
If Ariya had known what Gandalf was thinking, she would have told him he was correct. The long journey south had given her much time to be alone with her thoughts. She had always known that her parents were not truly evil, and that they must have faced a temptation too strong for them to bear. She wondered whether Melwen refused to leave Ambilë because she was also drawn to the ring, or if she hoped to help Ambilë and lead him away from the ring. Ariya knew she would never know why Melwen made the decisions she did, but she had decided that it was time to accept her past. As of late, her thoughts had begun to focus less on her parents and more on her own future. Now that she had found all the answers she would likely be able to find, what should she do? She promised to return to Lein, and she had no intention of breaking that promise. However, she also knew that her grandparents were hoping for her to return; yet she could still not bring herself to return to Rivendell. She remembered the prophecy that Elrond shared with her the day she left Imladris, and she knew that her journey was not over. What was to come she did not know, but she knew that there was a reason she had been born a half-elf and she intended to find that reason, even if the search lasted the rest of her life.
After allowing Ariya some time with her thoughts, Gandalf finally spoke: "Then I suppose there is no reason for you to remain here."
"No," Ariya answered. "I have found all the answers that I can in this place."
"Very well then," he said. "There are matters I should attend to in the North, and I'm afraid I have not been able to find what I was searching for here. Tomorrow morning we shall leave, and you can return to Ridden."
True to his word, they set off the next morning, after thanking the steward for the use of his libraries. The journey north was even more uneventful than the journey south; they did not see a single orc in the mountains. Of course they were always on the lookout for orcs and highway robbers, but between her elven foresight and his ways of the wizards, they were able to avoid any fighting. The journey was slow, for they often strayed from the roads to visit friends of Gandalf. It seemed that he had many matters to attend to, and Ariya never interfered.
Nearly a year after she left Rivendell, Ariya rode through the gates of Ridden for the second time. She walked her horse to Lein's smithy, and for a moment he did not see her, intent as he was on his work. Finally he looked up and smiled, and taking off his sooty gloves and apron he ran up and hugged her.
As he pulled away, he left his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. He saw peace there that he had not seen before, and he knew that she had found her answers. Before he could say anything, she spoke:
"I have come home."
List of Names and Places through Chapter 4
- Ambilë: Ariya's mortal father. Chapter 1.
- Arelen: "Morning Star"; Ariya's Elvish name. Chapter 1.
- Ariya Alayah: Translated as "Morning Star" in an ancient tongue of men; the heroine of our story. Chapter 1.
- Beredhel: "Bold Elf"; Ariya's maternal grandfather. Chapter 1.
- Duran: Advisor to the king of Ridden. Chapter 3.
- Isilmë: "Moonlight"; Ariya's maternal grandmother. Chapter 1.
- Land of the City-Kingdoms: A land northwest of Rivendell, consisting of several small cities of men, each ruled by their own king. Chapter 2.
- Lein: Ariya's half-brother, son of Ambilë; a smith in Ridden. Chapter 2.
- Lómion: "Descendant of Dark"; maker of Ambilë's ring. Chapter 4.
- Melwen: "Kind Maiden"; Ariya's elven mother. Chapter 1.
- Peramac "Perry" Brandybuck: One of the hobbits who helped Ariya on the East Road; twin brother of Tanagrim. Chapter 2.
- Ridden: A city in the land of the city-kingdoms. Chapter 2.
- Tanagrim Brandybuck: One of the hobbits who helped Ariya on the East Road; twin brother of Peramac. Chapter 2.
A little short, I know, but this seemed like the logical place to end the chapter. I'm going to shift gears a little in the next chapter, and hopefully it will make up for this one being so short!