Fair visions flashed past her mind. The beautiful valley where she had walked at whiles, the musical water that sang to her as she woke, her beloved father lord Elrond, wise yet sad in her absence. Looking at her piteously it made her heart rend to see him so sorrowful. Elladan and Elrohir were riding back upon they grey horses to a lesser welcome than usual for many of their folk had left and sailed away into the Undying West. They had gone to the beautiful lands she had been told about from birth, the lands of the Valar that she would never know. Would she ever see them again? They seemed near enough to touch now yet she knew within her heart that they were many miles away and that this illusion would only bring her sadness. At the moment she did not care, all she wanted was to look for perhaps the last time at her family. They were drawing away from her, fading into the background as the dream ended,
“Wait,” she whispered, “please wait.”
She sat up with a jerk, her pale skin clammy with a cold sweat, her dark hair unkempt upon her brow. Arwen Undomiel calmed herself as she recalled where she was and opened her eyes to the comforting darkness that enveloped her. She was sitting in her bed surrounded by the richly embroidered drapes that hung off the engraved oaken posts. She belittled herself for feeling so homesick, she had spent many a hundred years away from her father and brothers so why suddenly did she miss him so desperately? Tears welled in her eyes and silently she told herself to stop it feeling so shamefully ungracious in the midst of everything in her life that she had so desired and had brought her so much joy.
“Arwen?” her husband Aragorn, roused by her sudden movements touched her shoulder gently, “What is it my love?”
She turned to him mournfully and he perceived the cause for her distress. She had dreamt of her father and her brothers for several nights now and there seemed to be no cease in it. Taking her in his arms he held her close to him and whispered soothing words until the depth of her breathing convinced him that she had fallen back into slumber. Aragorn however did not sleep, he lay awake until dawn sent a ray of light through the chink in the curtains. He knew Arwen missed her family, it would not be so bad were she to depart over the sea when he had died but she would not. She had chosen to die as well, she had chosen a mortal existence. The king had worried for a long time that his wife was unhappy and it pained him to think she might be regretting her decision. She had renounced the Undying West and the eternal life of her people for him and the guilt of that still perturbed him. Every time he asked her though, the memory of her dreams had passed and she had fresh delight in Gondor and their life together. He left her early, she looked too peaceful to rouse so he brushed her lips in the gentlest ghost of a kiss and paused for a moment to stroke her hair which was arrayed across her shoulders.
The members of the court rose as Aragorn descended to break his fast, it was gesture he found unsettling amongst friends and his friends enjoyed doing it solely for that reason. He sought his comrades from the fellowship, whose advice he could ask about any matter. Legolas was amusedly watching Gimli deftly juggle his breakfast and his tongue with surprising skill. Managing to talk at a great pace while simultaneously consuming a plateful of eggs and bacon at the same speed. Legolas ate a much lighter meal in silence, hardly able to get a word in edgeways. As the king approached them they hailed him gladly but his face could not conceal the troubles of his mind that held him distracted.
“Aragorn, you cannot surely hope that we will overlook the evident disquiet you endeavour with if you do not share it with us.” said the elf, knowing with experience of his friend and an elvish awareness that the king would not disclose the nature of his turmoil without an invitation to do so, “We may be able to help,” he added when Aragorn did not speak.
“Do you believe the lady Arwen has any feelings of discontentment in living such a life as she has? I worry much that she is unhappy in Gondor and should it be so it would concern me deeply.” he asked and looked down at his empty plate, apprehensive of their answers. He told them about her dreams which had been so upsetting to her and they listened intently.
“Do not worry,” said Legolas startled by his friend’s outburst. “She loves you very much, that is plain. Aragorn, you must understand that she will miss her old home. Do not ask her to forget the land in which she dwelt for so long and loved so dearly.”
“I would never ask her to do that, for you forget that I dwelt in Imladris for many years and I too, miss that ethereal valley and the elven lord who housed me in his family for so long. I just could not bear it if she now laments over her choice and wishes she had made it otherwise.” The pain in his face was intolerable to see, his friends tried their hardest to console him.
“What could give you that idea?” asked Legolas, “Many times have you asked her and many times she has answered you truthfully that her decision was right. If she misses her homeland so much then let her see it again.”
“I have asked if she would like to visit and she claims she is fine, I do not believe she wishes to undertake the journey right now.” said Aragorn resignedly.
“I did not mean by journey, let her see it from afar. Grant her use of the palantir Aragorn, and set her mind at ease.” said the elf.
“A fine idea master Legolas.” said Gimli, Legolas bowed his head. “You used it yourself, lord some months ago, you know it to be dependable.” Aragorn sat quietly in thoughtfulness and his friends turned back to their rather one-sided discussion. The background of chatter from the royal household was giving him a headache and he desired no food while he was in this frame of mind. Waving away the serving maid he sought peace and quiet in the terraces that overlooked the city. Whenever he stood high above the city and looked with awe at the glimmering white spires that glinted as pearls in the morning light he felt sadness. This was the view most beloved of Boromir son of Denethor, he was son of the Steward and had served faithfully in the fellowship until his death at the hands of the Uruk-Hai. In his final breath he had at last acknowledged Aragorn to be his king and Aragorn remembered his description of the White City until the end of his days, the White City Boromir loved so dearly but would never see again. Aragorn always found peace to think in this place and as he stood high above the bustling people below he felt an eerie feeling as if he were flying and the world below his feet had stopped. He pondered the words of his friends for a long time and decided in the end to take their counsel. It was not mistrust of Arwen that formed his doubts, did she desire it and were it possible he would lift the very stars from the sky as gifts for her. He was delayed by doubts of the palantir’s safety, it was beyond the art of any living thing in Middle Earth and all such skills were dangerous. He had used it himself several times to look over his realm and while he knew it to be reliable he knew not where the other palantiri lay and in whose hands they were. Yet, as he told himself, he had seen nothing much amiss and there was no reason why his wife should.
The queen seemed less subdued now daylight had come but Aragorn was eager to alleviate her unrest. He found her sitting among the flowers, singing to herself quietly. The gardens of the Citadel were vast, they surrounded a statue of a beautiful maiden from whose hands poured water into a pool that stood at her feet. Arwen loved to sit beside this pool surrounded by rose bushes and fragrant lavender. The oncoming winter meant that few blossoming flowers were to be seen but a serene air encircled the place all year through and an ornate silver bench provided seating for several people. The queen, however sat there alone and trailed a slender stalk of lavender in the clear water.
The King paused to look at her in her peaceful solitude before stepping lightly up behind her and kissing her atop the head. He gave her a single red rose he had picked from the second circle gardens and she smiled and breathed in the sweet scent, glad of his intrusion but surprised at the offer he made.
“The palantir?” she asked, “Elessar, are you sure about this? I cannot deny my heart desires to look upon my father again but not at the cost of endangering the safety of the city.”
“There is slight chance of that, my dearest. The palantiri that were lost have never been recovered and the one in Barad-dûr was buried deep in the foundations of that foul tower. Where the others be, I do not know but I have seen nothing myself and I hope you shall see only what you desire. If it be your wish, you have full leave to use it and set your heart at rest.” said Aragorn.
“But how do I know what I will see?” she asked, “Will I be able to command it with my will?”
“I have little doubt about that, your will is very resolute at times,” he said and she nudged him playfully, “I am sure you will be able to see Rivendell, the diminishing of your father’s ring has left him open to view.”
“I should dearly like to see him again,” she said quietly, “and my brothers were I able. For if they leave before we next convene then we shall never meet again.” her voice broke off.
“I know, I know, sometimes I feel guilty for spiriting you away from them. I worry that you would rather be with your father than living a short life with me and then departing to where no man knows.” said Aragorn forlornly.
“You know the choice I made was right,” Aragorn hung his head, “Elessar look at me,” she said gently, “Never once have I regretted my decision, never have I looked back with remorse. You have made me happier than I ever dreamed possible, do not think it otherwise.” Aragorn smiled gratefully and kissed her hand.
“I do not doubt your judgement but that does not stop me feeling guilty for depriving you of so much.” he said.
“You deprive me of nothing,” she laughed, “I only have to ask and anything I desire is laid at my feet, what more could a wife wish for?” she rose and said, “Come let us see what the palantir may show me.”
They walked away to the hallowed Chamber of Palan. It was a small room with a single arched window which let in just enough light to see by. A podium wrought of amethyst with streaks of silver hue fluted upwards, upon it was the precious orb covered in a grey silken cloth. Only members of the community highly esteemed by the king were permitted to enter this room and so far no other person had gazed within the palantir’s infinite depths for that right was reserved for the King alone. Arwen knew that her beloved husband would do all in his power to see her happy and would never refuse her anything she wished for no matter how unreasonable. It was an honour indeed to be allowed to look into the globe and Arwen felt flutters of unease in her stomach; the desire to see her father however was strong enough to overcome all qualms. Aragorn lifted the silk swathe and the shadowy sphere lay motionless, as dark as a moonless night.
“Go ahead, look into it,” said Aragorn.
Arwen looked excited as she leaned forward, her beautiful dark hair brushing the glass.
A fiery flicker began to grow within it and form itself into images, a likeness of her devoted Elessar came to her unbidden. She saw herself as she was at the moment from above, leaning reverently over the palantir. The scene darkened and her mind was flying over the spacious lands. Rolling plains streamed out before her and she struggled to control what she saw. A look of exertion told on her face and Aragorn realised what was indeed happening, it had happened to him and it had been some time before he was fully able to bend it to his will.
“Focus,” he said as he watched her, “Turn it to your own purpose, turn it to Rivendell.”
The images continued to flash past and Rivendell appeared as a glimmer beneath her, she focused on it and it grew larger about her. Her spirit soared as she saw the woods she loved and the sweet valley she had spent so much time in. She saw her home and the halls she had lived in, at a window she saw a face she recognised and it made her exhale sharply. Her father looked towards her suddenly but she knew he could see nothing of her, she saw his face, his brows knitted with uneasiness. She wondered if he was aware of her gaze. Without the elven ring he wielded, he had little power to fend off her stare, for a couple of minutes she looked at him. Sitting at a table littered with scrolls and maps he jumped as Elladan entered bearing yet more leaves of parchment. Arwen was delighted to see her brother whom she had loved and played with as a child, she wondered where Elrohir was for they were rarely separated. He, she had not noticed was sitting on a carven stool in the corner, whittling something out of wood that she could not see. The scene suddenly changed and her eyes were drawn northwards reluctantly, ever further towards icy regions of snow and frost. She was content to see what the palantir would show her and it showed her many things at that moment. She saw snow capped mountains rising into the North, frozen lakes traversed by boned wains without wheels. She saw cold houses glistening white in the wintry sun but of what substance they were wrought she could not tell. A large stone stood before her and tendrils of fear emanated from it, beyond it lay a fearful plain of grinding ice mountains both beautiful and deadly. The palantir moved her on to a crater in the snow, the dwelling of some nameless terror, the standing stone was placed within it. There was an army of swarthy men, scantily equipped though terrible and fearful in their ravaging cruelty. She saw a gate, broken by the sands of time and further than that she could not see for her vision clouded and she was watched by something else. Something was sweeping through her and she knew that she was being seen from far away but the ball was covered in a swirling grey mist that her eyes could not penetrate. She felt an uncomfortable feeling of nakedness as her mind was searched and could not imagine from whence it came, nor could she shield herself against it; she was being held and it hurt to try and free herself. Acute pains wracked her consciousness and she gave a cry of fear. Aragorn leapt to her side in concern but there was little he could do until she was released. Arwen’s pain grew worse, it took over every thought in her mind until she could think of nothing else and as she vied so hard to free herself she was thrown backwards. She fell, crashing to the ground from the podium and the ball went still.
Aragorn was frenetic in his anxiety. His Evenstar lay hurt on the floor, unmoving, and he fell by her side calling her name and praying she would wake from her reverie. Her eyes flicked open and she beheld him looking so afraid and all her terror and pain left her, for a brief moment she forgot where she was and saw only her husband leaning over her. Aragorn aided her to sit up slowly and she was dizzy and breathless,
“Something was watching,” she gasped, “there is evil at work in the ice.” and she would say no more.
She wished to return at once to the light of the gardens but Aragorn bade her go to her bed chambers and rest until her strength had returned. This she did and he stayed by her side, unwilling to leave except when she slept. Guilt preyed heavily on his conscience. He could not help but believe that it was his fault his wife had suffered so. He it was that suggested the palantir, yet he could not fathom the riddle; if he had looked into it as recently as a few months then why did he not see anything so amiss as Arwen did? All he could conclude was that there was newly formed malice afoot and he cursed himself for not checking the seeing-stone before he had allowed her to use it. When Gimli inquired about what had occurred Aragorn simply told him that he did not know and that something was not right in Middle Earth.
It was a few hours before Arwen felt ready to meet the court and she seemed pale and wan to all who beheld her. Aragorn ran to her side when he saw her and helped her to her seat for she swayed with faintness and he feared she might topple. When the meal was over Aragorn took Arwen to a private sitting room and asked her what it was exactly she saw. She was unwilling to speak of it for the memory was so very unpleasant but once she understood the danger her silence would mean she recalled all she could. When she told her husband about the other palantir and the bodiless spirit who had peered at her from the other end he grasped her hand, held it tight and bade her continue.
“That is all I remember, I am so sorry,” she hung her head.
“You have nothing to be sorry for!” Aragorn cried, “It is I who must ask for forgiveness for putting you through this ordeal.”
“Nay, my love, how could I ever blame you? For you desired only my comfort and I was for a while granted a brief glance of that which I most wished to see. Please do not regret offering me such a chance for it was a hand of fate that steered my eyes and who knows what evil this will prevent?” she bent and guided her lips to meet his as he knelt and they kissed deeply, savouring the silken touch. He was reassured a little but wary as to what this new alarm for the security of the city might be.
The next day Aragorn went alone to the Chamber of Palan and resolved to look into the glittering deeps of the ball that lay so peacefully upon its stand. He told no man where he was going and left his friends early as they jested with each other amid the commotion of the court. The hall was quiet, a silence so deafening it drowned all the outside noise. The slender golden beam of light that gleamed through the solitary window cast a light only upon the plinth and left all else shrouded in darkness. Aragorn admitted to himself that he was afraid. Arwen’s ancient mind of elven power could not control what passed before it so what chance did his much younger, corporeal variety have? Bracing himself for what might come, he stepped up to the pedestal and drew back its fair wrappings. The darkness that lay within its glittering façade was overwhelming, Aragorn stared into the dimness until he began to see familiar shapes forming, as was usual he began to turn it westward, over his realm but he stilled himself in time and directed it north. Arwen’s description had included much snow and the ice dwellings in the North sounded like the most likely place for her to have seen. He glanced over the dazzling landscape, searching for any evil root. Blackness he found in places but nothing that was as alarming as his wife had seen. He could see none of the landmarks that Arwen had portrayed and he suddenly felt as if some other unyielding will strove with him to prevent his eyes turning towards it. For a long time he battled with this source and fought it with every fibre of his being but to no avail. In the end it was too much and he withdrew, defeated by some greater power that he had not encountered before. He was greyed with exhaustion and weakened to his knees, falling to the floor with unsteadiness. He did not feel the tender hands that lifted his face, but he saw the light which shone about him and lay with him as he recovered enough to take in his surroundings. Arwen sat by his side, his head on her breast and her hands breathing warmth into his palms.
“How long have I been here?” he asked incoherently,
“Longer than you think,” Arwen said, “and you looked in that ball for over an hour, time runs more quickly than you thought.”
“How long have you been here?” he asked,
“Some time,” she answered, smiling. “Your friends are outside, they are worried about you, but I forbade them to enter. What were you thinking to come here and look alone?” she asked anxiously, “If Legolas had not realised you missing then who knows what evil may have befallen you.”
“I am sorry but I had to see, I had to know.” he said, reluctant to move anywhere from his wife’s loving embrace, “I needed to see the evil that was at work. You must understand that if it is not caught in time then we might have to face new perils that we cannot beat.” dizziness clutched at him again and Arwen waited with him until he was able to stagger to his feet.
“Are you sure you can you stand?” she asked, her anxiety hardly lessened.
With difficulty he rose and she assisted him to the doors. The sunshine blinded his eyes after the darkness and he could not at first make out the dim figures of his friends as they stood up hurriedly and came to him.
“Aragorn!” cried Gimli.
“Here comes forth the weathered ranger whom I thought had vanished forever!” Legolas’ tone was light yet his face was clouded with worry for his friend. At his wife’s bidding Aragorn rested awhile before summoning the Council to reflect on the threat the palantir had revealed.
The cavernous, high-ceilinged halls of the Citadel served as a meeting place for the city elders and wise elven folk that were visiting the queen and Legolas. They sat around in a half circle, separated from the lord Aragorn by a carven oak table. Torches burned brightly in their brackets and cast flickering shadows that danced up the stony walls. Evening drew nigh as the group met and Aragorn sat enthroned at the head of the room and waited patiently for all he had summoned to enter. The Lady Arwen sat at his side, she had insisted on attending and he was glad of it. He could see the faces full of inquisitiveness looking back at him, taking in the change in his usually fair appearance. He began the telling of what had happened that day. He spoke of everything that had come to pass from the Lady Arwen’s horrific trial to what had happened to himself when he looked in the palantir. There were cries of speculation when the possibility of another recovered palantir was discussed but that was overshadowed by the sense of foreboding that accompanied the evil being who was using it. Aragorn took time to explain the extent of the iniquitous air of the spirit if spirit it was; so there should be no doubt about their ultimate aim. He had felt a foul presence lurking just out of sight, wholly cruel, intent upon malice and malevolence.
“Sickening was the experience and I myself was blocked from seeing anything described by the queen. No landmarks were brought to my sight and the struggle between my will and that of my foe was grievous. We must decide what to do about this new threat. The power that wields the palantir is not weak and has a will of adamant. My guess places it in the far north of Middle Earth, fortressed in the mountains. Use of the palantir has made its gaze stretch further afield, it now knows that we are aware of its presence, as it might not have known before. We must decide what is to be done about this threat.” said Aragorn, wearied beyond belief and exerting his waning strength into each speech.
Loremaster Virumore stood and cast his opinions before the Council.
“What hope have we in battling both a force unknown and far away?” he said. “We must discover all we can about this being and then plan the best way to attack.”
“Nay, master!” an eager young captain stood across from Virumore and vied with him. “The enemy’s strength will only wax while we wait. If we strike now then much loss could be prevented in the future! What have we to gain but giving the enemy a chance to gain strength beyond our power to defeat? The crowned king himself could not triumph in a battle of will,” he bowed low to his king. “I say attack the people of Fornost for that is assuredly where the palantir would be held, it is the only large city of snow men in the North.”
“The snow people of Fornost have long been friendly with the Dunedain,” Aragorn said. “It was from them we ransomed the ring of Barahir, and so it was saved from the shipwreck of the ice bay of Forochel.” Arwen fingered the ring, it was a gift from her husband and she loved and prized it highly among her possessions. Remembering with a smile the night of their troth at Cerin Amroth that he gave it to her.
“This ancient coalition may have been forgotten by them but I think not.” Aragorn continued “They are a dwindling folk, reserved and shy. They are usually reluctant to fight and peaceful for their part so they may be less hostile than we imagine. Their willpower would be overcome with little effort and they could be enslaved by a power with little resistance. They wish only for calmness in their lives to go about their business as they ever had. They are not evil though they can be conquered by it, the snowmen are not warriors and if we fight them we will win.”
At this a stir of excitement rustled through the room, Aragorn however held up his hand as a signal for silence.
“Yes we will win,” he said, “but at what price? We could slay families as they slept and suffer not a single loss, we could overturn the town and lay it in ruin. This would not conquer the evil that bewitched them, it would not destroy the threat to Gondor. All it would do would be to give the proud army of Minas Tirith a legend of cruelty and we would lose the gentle friendship of those who dwell in snow.”
The whispers were cowed and each man sat in quiet contemplation of this fact.
“Two prospects have we heard!” Legolas stood up. “Each with as much chance of succeeding as the other. What I propose is that a small army depart in a few months, with their hope in stealth until the last moment. The learned Loremasters of this city must use this time to research into this matter all they can. For this palantir that is being turned to evil uses is surely one of those of Annuminas or Amon Sul which were lost in the sea crossing. It is true the men there have long been friendly to Gondor but evil dominion will corrupt their hearts. I say act soon but not over hastily. Master Virumore must have some idea of what creatures we may be dealing with, which creatures inhabit the frozen lands. I also say let the Lady Evenstar guide us, for she alone knows where this wickedness dwells and in her is our faith placed.” Legolas inclined his head and asked Arwen,
“If it be the will of this council then would it please you to aid us?”
Aragorn knew the exact answer his wife would give. She had never once shied away from danger in her life and he was quite sure she would not do it now. Yet he was averse to let her go for should she perish then all meaning in his life would perish with her.
“I do not wish you to go.” said Aragorn, well aware that it would do little good.
“Do you wish me to remain at home all my life?” she asked, gleaming with excitement at the prospect of facing such a mission.
“You know the answer to that,” he said quietly. “You also know that I would do anything that I could to protect you from danger. I love you,” she resisted the overwhelming impulse to fall into his arms, yet she thought it was not the time nor place for such open affection.
“Amin sinta thaliolle e dagor, lye nuquernuva sen.” Aragorn looked away doubtfully, Arwen continued more quietly, “Amin mela lle.” In her tongue she had said, `I know your strength in battle, we will defeat them. I love you’ The elvish members of the meeting turned their heads or cast their eyes elsewhere as to give them some privacy as could scarce be contrived under the gaze of so many. The ones who knew no elvish followed suit at their promptings.
“Nál ainunya, my angel, I could not bear to lose you,” Aragorn strove with doubts over his wife who clearly wanted to accompany the party. He could not deny that her knowledge would be needed in tracking the malevolent being down but he also knew that the enemy understood her knowledge and would kill her first of any of them.
“You will not lose me, I will never leave you.” she said and became conscious of the fact they were observed by many.
“My lord and lady,” interjected Gimli, “a decision is yet to be made, do we have your consent to follow the plan suggested?”
“Yes.” said Aragorn, “I agree we must act quickly, my good Legolas, and I agree the army must be small yet potent. I do not however feel that we should endanger the queen,”
“How else would you find your way? Your success depends on what I can recall and Elessar, in this matter I insist that I shall not be left behind!” She was formidable in her vehemence and even the brave men of Gondor did not particularly wish to stand between her and her desire to go.
Aragorn was resigned to the fact his wife was adamant and unmovable for he knew her well enough to understand that this mood would last and become no less forceful as it wore on. The council then drew plans for the army they would take and provisions they would need, Arwen said little and the meeting was soon finished. As the light of day receded they strolled silently from the company and sought only peace to reflect on all that had happened. The couple were both tired from the exertions with the palantir and they desired quiet and time to spend in each others company.
Preparations for the journey were well underway the next day. Loremasters unlocked vaults in their memories hoping to recall something about Forochel or Fornost that might be of some use. Aragorn was speaking with Faramir and poring over maps when Brannath the elder came to him in a flurry of excitement.
“My lord,” he said, “forgive the intrusion but I have found this in the Greater Scriptorium.” He held up a piece of parchment with drawings sketched onto it of a crude figurine carved out of what seemed like stone.
“What is it?” asked Aragorn, not realising what the loremaster had found.
“It is an account of the imprisonment of Ranklathe the forbidding in the first age of this world.”
Aragorn took the parchment which threatened to crumble in his hands at any time. It read: Here lies the description of the people of Fornost after the imprisonment of Ranklathe the forbidding into the sacred spirit stone.
Ranklathe was of the elements. His form could be of Wind, Fire, Earth or Water. These forms he did use to their terrible potency and became an embodiment of perils of the natural world. Enwarde, also mighty among the Maiar perished from this world in the fight and he takes much of Ranklathe’s former power. The battle was fierce, they smote houses, trees and the mountainside in their fury. Ranklathe was mighty among the Maiar yet seldom do we name him for fear of ill fortune. The only material object that holds enough power to defeat the fell being is the Sceptre of Lithnuxe. It can control Ranklathe in bodiless form by the power invested by its maker. Only destruction of this staff will sever all ties this Maiar holds to this world but it has long been lost and hopefully obliterated.
Imprisoned in the sacred spirit stone of Lithnuxe his soul was left to diminisheth by the hand that set him there. Enwarde was of light, a being close to the Valar and they mourn his fall but he dwells now in Western lands and lives again. Illegible blurs followed these words.
The stone is hailed as a bringer of ill chance and entombed deep within the ice where it was hoped that his soul might freeze and return never more to trouble the world. In bodiless form Ranklathe manipulates the winds of Manwe and can be sharp as slicing blade to those who fall beneath his wrath. Let all flee in peril if the stone be awoken lest they fall under the darkness it will bring upon the white lands.
The rest was impossible to read though it brought Aragorn little hope.
“Do we now know the nature of our enemy?” he asked, “Is this who go to face?”
“I believe so my lord, it fits the narrative of the Lady Evenstar, an invisible form intent on malice. The men at Fornost fashioned a casket of ice to hold Ranklathe in the spirit stone, for only such extreme cold can prevent his soul reforming. Yet this is hopeful,” he said
“How so?” asked Aragorn quickly.
“The legend of the battle of Enwarde and Ranklathe tells of how Enwarde stripped him of his body and cast it into the sacred stone. Only then did he die being wounded so as he was.” said the loremaster,
“Yes, how is that significant?” asked Aragorn growing weary.
“Well Ranklathe is much, much weaker when he has no structure, only powers of will to dominate remain with him. That is how he blocked your eyes though he be feeble in stature.” said the loremaster.
“Then how was it he escaped from his frozen prison?” asked Aragorn, realising that there was optimism in hasty strike.
“All I can conclude is that he had aid from something, perhaps one of the snow people hungry for power. Too oft are the most important parts of ancient history forgotten, the people do not know their peril.” He bowed and Aragorn dismissed him.
With this new information, Aragorn summoned his marshals and instructed them to form an army of no more than a thousand of the city’s best warriors. They were equipped with warm clothes and blankets for many of them had never been north further than the misty mountains and the raw cold would be fatal to them. He himself was to lead with a select few fighters and the rest of the army would follow a day later. In this way they might avoid being seen as marching to war and perhaps stave off any attack that would be aimed at a large mass of people.
Arwen helped them in their preparations. She was eager to depart and prove her worth. Aragorn smiled at her enthusiasm, he still retained doubts but quelled them for her sake. He had not the heart to forbid her to come and, smiling to himself, he thought that she would follow anyway and probably in the nick of time, for that was Arwen’s way. He came to her whilst she was packing. Taking elvish garments which were cool or warm at need, and filling up Aragorn’s bag likewise.
“Undomiel,” he walked towards her, “we travel light remember.”
She smiled wryly at him, “I am aware of that Elessar, which is why I pack us elvish made clothes.”
He came and sat beside her, watching her as she prepared for the journey ahead.
“I have brought you something,” he said, drawing out a bag he had carried in. Arwen took it curiously and fished out the contents. “They have been forged to fit you in the armouries.”
“A shield and mail!” She was delighted with her gift and held up the shining corslet that tinkled in the light, it was very fair. Aragorn placed the shield upon her arm, it was silver and unadorned save for a single star that shone in the centre and was wrought of mithril.
“Its beautiful, thank you,” she kissed him long,
“I could not have you rendered defenceless could I?” he said, Arwen smiled happily at him but drew nearer and said quietly,
“I think we should take the palantir,”
“The palantir? Why?” he asked.
“The enemy will have fixed his gaze on Minas Tirith. He cannot yet know that an army is departing and heading for Fornost. We must know of any battle he prepares and use it for our own gain for otherwise all will be lost.” she said.
“I confess I had not thought of that.” sighed Aragorn. “So be it, we will take it though it is very precious and it would be ruinous if it were to be lost. It is the second most prized item that dwells in the citadel. Unfortunately, the most prized and adored item refuses to be left behind.”
Arwen laughed and kissed him again and threw into his arms a newly rolled up pack complete with blankets and tent.
“I mean it Undomiel.” Aragorn’s face was now serious, “If you died I would never forgive myself,” he broke off, unable to think about what would happen if Arwen died.
“Shh,” she comforted him, “do not think that way. I know you would never let anyone hurt me and I love you for that. What could happen to me with you fighting by my side? I promise, when I have identified the landmarks I saw I will seek refuge from battle and leave that to you.”
Her words did much to console him and they embraced. Aragorn pulled her to him and for a some time they lay together quietly on the bed, Aragorn loved the feel of her in his arms and it was not long before sleep took him. She in turn loved to watch him while he slept, so sweet and so innocent he seemed when the cares he carried on his shoulders were lifted. The intimacy they shared was great and they tenderly held each other in peaceful dream, hoping beyond hope it would not be the last time they did so.