Chapter 3: Questions and Answers
Recap: Ariya made her way to the Shire, where she stayed with Tanagrim and Perry Brandybuck after being attacked by highway robbers. She met Gandalf at Hobbiton, who suggested that she search for Lein, a smith who lives in the city of Ridden.
As Ariya entered the inn, her ears were met with the boisterous conversation and laughter of men who had one too many pints of ale. It had been nearly a month since she had left the Shire, for her travels had been slow without her horse. She had finally found her way to Ridden, a small city no larger than Bree but without the busyness of a trading center. She now looked about the room anxiously, wondering who she should ask first about Lein. She finally decided to ask the innkeeper; her experience had been that innkeepers often knew more people in the village than anyone else.
She walked up to the counter and sat down, waiting to catch the eye of the innkeeper. He soon saw her, and walking over to her, he asked with a smile, “What I can get a lovely lady tonight?”
Since leaving the Shire, Ariya had been covering her ears with her hair or the hood of her cloak, tiring of the stares and questions. Thus, the innkeeper thought she was simply a mortal woman, albeit a rather beautiful one.
“I am looking for a smith named Lein; I was told that he lives in this city,” Ariya said.
“Ah yes, Lein, he lives not far from here. When you leave this inn, turn left and walk about a fourth of a mile to his smithy, you can’t miss it.”
“Thank you.” Ariya got up to leave, but stopped when she saw the innkeeper staring at her thoughtfully.
“May I ask how you know Lein?” the innkeeper said, obviously curious as to why such a fair woman would be traveling alone, searching for a smith in the small city of Ridden.
“I was told that he can help me find my father,” she said simply. With that, she left the inn, hoping to reach Lein’s before it was too late for a stranger to politely stop in for a visit. She soon saw the smithy, and her heart leaped into her throat at the thought of finally finding the first answers to her questions. She could see that no one was at work in the smithy, so she knocked on the door of the adjacent house, assuming it to be Lein’s.
She waited anxiously, and soon the door opened. There stood a young man with thick blond hair and dark eyes, although it was difficult to see his features clearly in the waning sunlight. “Yes?” he said. “Can I help you?”
“I hope so,” Ariya replied. “Are you Lein?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“I am looking for a man named Ambilë and his elven wife Melwen. I was told that you might know them?” she asked hopefully.
She saw him start at the name Ambilë, but he quickly tried to hide any recognition he may have had. “Please, come in, and we can talk,” he said. She entered the house, and as he shut the door he motioned for her to have a seat at the small table in the center of the room. She could smell supper cooking in the fireplace, and she glanced about the room, wondering if he had a wife or family. If he did, she could see no evidence of it. He walked over and sat across from her, folding his hands together on the table. “Tell me, how do you know Ambilë? Why are you seeking him?”
“He is my father.” She paused, then pulled off her hood to fully reveal her face and added, “And Melwen is my mother.” She saw his eyes grow wide at her proclamation and wondered what it could mean.
“Why I have I not heard of you before?” he asked.
Unsure as to why he was asking so many questions, Ariya replied, “Twenty-two years ago, when I was a baby, an eagle flew me to Rivendell where I lived ever since. I was not told of my parents until just recently, and now I wish to find them. I have many questions for them.” She knew that such a vague answer would not satisfy him, but was hesitant to reveal more until she knew why he was so inquisitive.
Lein said nothing, but instead walked over to stir the pot hanging above the fire. She could see by his awkward motions that he was very nervous. She wanted to say more, but decided it would be best if she allowed him to speak next.
Finally he returned to his seat and said, “I’m sorry that I have been so… tense. You see, Ambilë was my father, although Melwen was not my mother.”
They both sat for a moment in silence. Their eyes finally met, and reality began to sink in: he was her half-brother. She realized that having an elf come to his door and claim to be his sister would certainly surprise most men, and she quickly forgave him for his inquisitiveness. She studied his face more closely, and saw that he looked much like the man in her dream, except for his lighter hair. Suddenly she realized something: “Wait, you said Ambilë was your father… is he no longer alive?”
“I’m afraid not,” Lein replied.
Ariya suddenly felt her spirits plummet. For some reason it had never occurred to her that her parents may no longer be alive. She had always envisioned herself finding them in some far-off land, sitting with them for hours and asking them all her questions. She now feared that she may never be able to answer the questions about her past that had troubled her heart for the past three months. Dreading the answer, but knowing that she must ask, she said, “How did he die?”
Lein hesitated, knowing that she was troubled by this news. He did not want to tell this beautiful woman–his sister–of her parents’ gruesome deaths, but he knew that he must. “Ambilë and Melwen had lived not far from Ridden for as long as I can remember. However, my mother refused to let me see them, always telling me that Ambilë was a terrible man. About six years ago, a band of orcs came from the Misty Mountains in the east and attacked them, and they were both killed. I’m sorry.”
Ariya sat in shock for a moment, trying to allow her mind to assimilate the information. “Do you know why they were attacked?” she asked, still not fully comprehending what he was saying.
“The orcs stole a ring from them. My mother once described the ring; she said that it was gold, with two dragon heads shaped in the metal. The heads faced each other with their mouths open, and there was a large red jewel between them, as if both dragons were attempting to swallow the stone at once.”
Ariya did not know what to say. Why did she have the dreams now, and the strong desire to leave Rivendell, only to learn that her parents had died years ago? Or perhaps her dreams were to lead her to her brother, not her parents? With that thought, she decided to shift the conversation toward Lein, partly in an attempt to alleviate the pain of her parents’ deaths.
“You said Ambilë was your father, but you did not say who your mother was.”
Lein looked up, surprised that she seemed to be taking the news of their deaths so well. However, he could not see the pain that she held inside her heart. “Her name was Hanna. I’m afraid that Ambilë was not faithful to Melwen; I was conceived nineteen years ago. Ambilë abandoned my mother, and she was left to raise me alone. She died of a fever about two years ago.” Ariya could see pain in his eyes, as well.
They said little for the rest of the evening, each alone with his or her thoughts. He invited her to stay for supper, and later allowed her to stay the night in his home, since he had an extra bed that used to belong to his mother.
As she lay in her bed, Ariya’s thoughts centered on Ambilë’s ring. She would probably never know why her mother could not leave Ambilë or why she sent her baby to Rivendell, knowing she might never see her child again. The ring must have more power over her than Ariya realized. As she drifted off to sleep, she wondered how she could learn more about the ring, for it seemed to be the key to this puzzle.
The next morning she ate breakfast with Lein. They did not mention the previous night’s conversation, and instead Lein told her about Ridden while she described to him Imladris. Despite the pleasant words of the conversation, their hearts were both uneasy. Finally, she asked him, “Do you know how Ambilë found the ring?”
Lein thought for a moment and replied, “No, I don’t believe my mother ever mentioned it. However, I do have all of Ambilë’s scrolls and books; perhaps you may find something there.”
“You never mentioned that!” Ariya exclaimed.
“I’m sorry,” Lein answered, misinterpreting her surprise as anger. “I can read very little of it, for most of the text is written in ancient tongues.”
“It’s all right,” said Ariya. As an afterthought, she added, “Do you have anything else that belonged to either of them?”
“No,” he replied. “After their deaths, I looked through their house for anything worth keeping since I was the only known heir. My mother wanted nothing to do with Ambilë’s possessions but allowed me to take whatever I wanted. I saw nothing of value, but I did keep the books and scrolls. I have learned some basic Elvish by reading them, and have rather enjoyed the learning experience. An old farmer lives in the house now.” He showed her to the books, and she eagerly picked one up and began to read.
Ariya spent the entire day perusing Ambilë’s books and scrolls. Some were written in ancient languages that she could not read, but many were written in Elvish dialects. Some of the dialects had not been used for many years, and it was a very slow process for Ariya to translate and read all of the ancient works. As the day drew to a close, Ariya was startled out of her reading by a knock on the door. Glancing about at the stacks of books and scrolls on the table, she realized that it would take her several days to complete the task. Lein did not appear, so Ariya sighed, closed the book she was reading, and answered the door.
Standing in the doorway was a tall, handsome man, with straight brown hair just brushing his shoulders. He had a short, neatly trimmed beard, and his clothes were finer than most in the village. Their eyes met, and after a brief pause, Ariya politely invited him in, embarrassed to have hesitated so.
Just then Lein walked into the room, and the man, with a smile on his face, said, “Lein, my friend, you did not tell me that you had invited another guest to dinner! And one so fair!”
Lein smiled and replied, “She is no guest; she is my sister.”
The man was noticeably surprised, and taking a closer look at Ariya he said, “But she is of the Elven kind… how can that be?”
“She is a half-elf, and is actually only my half-sister. But that is a story for another time.” Suddenly realizing that he had failed to introduce Ariya to his guest, Lein continued, “Her name is Ariya Alayah. Ariya, this is my good friend Duran.”
Later, during the meal, Lein told Duran a shortened version of his meeting with Ariya. Meanwhile, she learned that Duran was the advisor to the king of Ridden, and often ate dinner with his friend Lein. Neither of them was yet married, so they enjoyed spending time together while their other friends went home to their wives.
Ariya spent the next several days reading through the ancient stories and annals. Word slowly began to travel through Ridden that Lein had an elven sister, and visitors would occasionally stop by to meet her. However, much to Ariya’s relief, she did not create near as much of a stir as she did in the Shire.
One day, Lein walked into the house to see Ariya sitting at the table where she had spent the past week. Instead of reading, she was gazing out the window, her thoughts clearly in another place. “Ariya?” he asked.
“I have read all that I can; yet I have found no reference of the ring,” Ariya replied flatly, still staring outside.
“I’m sorry,” said Lein. When she did not answer, he returned to his smithy, realizing that she desired solitude.
Ariya sat there contemplating what to do next. She desperately wanted to learn more about the ring, but she did not know where else to go. She could return to Rivendell to examine the records Elrond kept, but something in her heart told her that it was not yet time to return. Besides, she also wanted to stay and learn more about the brother she never knew existed until just a week ago.
After a while she heard a knock on the door, and slowly pulling herself out of her meditation, she walked across the room and opened the door. There stood an old man in a grey robe–it was Gandalf!
“Ah, I thought I might find you here,” he said. She invited him in, and soon found herself telling him all that she had learned since coming to Ridden. While she was telling him her story, Lein walked in, brushing the soot off of his clothes after a long day of work. Surprised to see the old man talking to his sister, Ariya interrupted her story to introduce him. It seemed that while Gandalf knew who Lein was, Lein had not met the wizard before.
After she finished her story, Gandalf sat there thoughtfully smoking his pipe. Ariya and Lein glanced at each other and remained silent, waiting for the wizard to speak. Finally, Gandalf said, “When I left the Shire, I planned to travel south to Gondor, but decided to stop by and see if you had found your brother first.” After a quick puff on his pipe, he continued, “There are a great many ancient records kept in the White City of Gondor. Would you care to accompany me on my journey? It will be very long, but perhaps you will find some of the answers you seek.”
Ariya’s heart leapt, thrilled to think that perhaps her quest was not over. “I would love to,” she replied.
They offered to let Gandalf spend the night, but it seemed that he had other business to attend to in Ridden and simply said that he would return in the morning. The next day, Ariya gathered supplies for her journey. Lein offered to let her take one of his two horses for her journey and she gratefully accepted. He also gave her a longbow and a new quiver, to replace the smaller bow given to her by the hobbits. Gandalf soon returned, and after hugging Lein and promising to return, Ariya rode off with Gandalf to continue her quest, this time heading south.
List of Names and Places through Chapter 3
- 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.
- 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.