The Ageless Rose - Chapter One

Two riders clad in dark raiment silently climbed the bridge over one of Imladris' roaring falls in the grey morning light. The heads of their horses drooped wearily, yet plodded on, knowing that soon their toil would come to an end.

Both riders bore a young child in their arms, wrapped securely in a warm blanket. The children were fair of skin, each one with shadowy waves of brown hair. "Mama?" The child that was awake queried from her mother's arms. She had bright grey-brown eyes, and an air of innocent curiosity. She fidgeted, trying to look about.

"Hush, child. Wait." Her mother whispered with a sigh. "Our journey will end soon." Obediently, the little girl stopped her movements, and snuggled close to her mother, contentedly putting a thumb in her small mouth.

"Forlong?" The woman called back to her companion. "How is my son?"

"He sleeps, my Lady." The man said as he looked to the dark haired bundle in his arms. The man himself had light brown locks of hair, dusted with grey before his time and twinkling green eyes. "Doubtless he shall wake when we are expected to arrive." The woman nodded, and turned to watch the path ahead.

Already in the early morning mists they could see a tall figure standing in the courtyard that was at the end of their long path. At last they drew into the yard, and the person hurried forward, taking the woman's hand and assisting her as she dismounted, little girl-child still in her arms.

"My lady Gilraen," Lord Elrond of Imladris greeted the tall woman as she drew back her green hood. She had auburn hair, like her children, and wise brown eyes set beneath level brows. "And my Lord Forlong. Years have passed since you were last seen in this House."

"Indeed, my lord." Forlong replied, shifting the child he carried protectively.

"You have been expected my lady, as your child has. But I see that you have brought another young one with you." Elrond said, looking to the child in the lady's motherly embrace.

"Yes," Gilraen said to the tall Elf-lord, voice sounding worried. "The messages did not tell you this?"

"No, they did not. They only spoke of one child, Aragorn son of Arathorn, coming." He replied, brow furrowed in confusion.

The lady sighed. "She is Aragorn's sister. Her name is Anariel, after Anarion Elendil's son. They are twins, my lord."

"Twins?" Elrond led the guests into his house, allowing them to shed their travel stained cloaks beside a hearth in one of the House's many rooms. Gratefully, the travelers sat before the warmth, allowing the burdensome journey to cease at last. Little Anariel promptly fell asleep beside her brother, on one of the soft couches that were before the fireside. Elrond gazed at them for a moment before turning to their mother.

"Which is the elder twin?" He asked quickly, a look of great urgency upon his face.

Gilraen blushed slightly. "It is unknown."

Elrond sighed and turned to gaze out of one of the tall windows, seeing the pink of dawn slowly rising against the peaks of the Misty Mountains. "Do you know the noble lineage of the blood that flows within them? Their years should be at least thrice that of lesser men because of it. One is now the leader of the Dúnedain in the North, young as they may be." He whispered heatedly, not wanting to wake the sleeping young ones as he leaned heavily on the sill of a window. "One of these children may be destined to become the ruler of the free world of men; some have guessed or foreseen that it would be so. By tradition, the oldest child shall be the sovereign, if they should one day rise to take the throne."

"I know this my lord." Gilraen said, eyes flashing slightly at Elrond's tone of voice. "It has already been arranged for Forlong to head the Dúnedain, until the children are of age." Folrong nodded in agreement. "As for the fate of the kingdoms, I do not know."

Elrond walked over to the couch where the children slept. Anariel stirred in her dreams, a contented smile on her small face. Elrond bit back a smile of his own. How sweet the little maid was! Almost he was reminded of his own daughter, in happier years when she was young.

"While they reside here, for a time, let their names and true lineage be kept from them." He said at last, looking to Gilraen. His deep eyes were lit with the promise of the idea. "Perhaps when they are of age, we may know who shall be the right heir of Elendil, and we may reveal their given names. Then, if the time permits they can be given the shards of Narsil, and rekindle hope in the hearts of men."

Their mother considered for a moment. Hide the names of her beloved children? Never let them know who they truly were, until they were come to near adulthood? Yet maybe it would be the proper choice. Elrond was one of the Wise, and his counsel would not lead her astray.

"Perhaps it would be best, my lord." She told Elrond quietly, avoiding his gaze. "Yet what would their names be?"

Elrond looked to the little children before him. To his far-seeing eyes, Aragorn seemed to hold the bearings to be a strong leader, such promise as had not been seen for men in an age.

"Aragorn will be called Estel," he said. "He will bring hope to men. As for little Anariel," The maiden of whom he spoke opened her bright grey-brown eyes, and looked up at him prettily, though her hair was mussed from her sleep and her cheeks rosy from the warmth of the Hall. Impulsively, Elrond smoothed her brown curls as a father might, a smile on his wise countenance. "She will be Merilwen, the Rose. She shall be a joy to the world in her own way, and with a spirit no less valiant than that of her brother." He watched as the child yawned and rubbed her eyes with tiny hands.

"Estel and Merilwen." Forlong said aloud. He smiled to Gilraen. "The names fit them well, my lady."

"Indeed they do," Gilraen said, looking fondly to her son and daughter. She turned to Elrond. "As a father you shall be to them," she said, her appreciation shown on her fair features.

"For a little while," Elrond replied evenly.

"Ada?" Merilwen queried to the Elf-lord, large eyes wide and innocent as she held out her arms, clearly wanting to be picked up.

"Is that what you shall call me?" Elrond said, tenderly lifting the little maiden and bouncing her gently in his arms, smiling as he heard her gleeful laughter.


**Authors Note: The title of this story may not make sense until... later on. ; )

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