Aragorn lay in bed, gradually metamorphosing into a snivelling idiot, when the door opened. He had left it unlocked. Someone looked in – it was his father.
And now, Elrond stood by the bed, looking down at his son. He looked down Aragorn, his youngest child with dark curly hair that tumbled untidily over his forehead and soft grey eyes that betrayed his youth, his vulnerability. He took Aragorn’s hand in his.
“Did you want to talk to me,” he asked.
“No, father,” lied Aragorn.
Elrond looked at his son with affection. All his children were beautiful, he thought. And this one perhaps the most. He smoothed Aragorn’s hair back from his face.
“Couldn’t get to sleep?”
“What’s the matter, my little Soggy-face?”
Aragorn smiled at the name his father had called him. It was one of the odd little things that Elrond had always done to comfort a crying child – call him funny names to cheer him up.
“Are you upset with me… angry with me? Would you like to tell me about it?”
Aragorn shook his head. “No, father,” he said. Just at that moment, he wasn’t thinking of how angry he was with Elrond. He looked up at his father, sincerely wishing that he could love him again as he used to. But he could not. Too much had happened…
“Father…” he said.
“If you explained to me the reasons for all the things you’ve done, I’m sure – I’m really sure – that I’d understand.”
Elrond sat in thoughtful silence for a moment.
“I am sorry that I think of you in this way, father.”
“No,” said Elrond quietly, “don’t blame yourself for thinking the way you do about me… if a child of mine feels unloved, it is for me to work to make him feel loved again.”
“If you explained things to me, father, I’m sure I would understand…”
Elrond smiled gently. “Estel,” he said, “You have been so badly hurt by my words and deeds that I could not put things right with a few minutes of explanation. But you and I can set out on the road to recovering our old friendship today… and before you know it, the day will come when you and I truly feel that everything is all right…” Elrond’s eyes softened, as he looked his son. “Will you take that road with me, Estel?”
Aragorn took a deep breath. He suddenly felt tired and depressed. Was he really ready to make friends with Elrond? Was he ready to put a stop to the continuous stream of negative remarks on Elrond that his mind had got into the habit of making? He would have to stop wallowing in misery and educate himself to think differently. Was he ready to do that? Aragorn decided that he was.
“I will, father.”
Elrond’s eyes shone as he walked to the window and looked up at the stars. Aragorn got out of bed and went to stand beside him. There was no evening star in the sky – it was too late for that now.
“Where’s Earendil’s star,” asked Aragorn.
Elrond smiled. “He’s gone.”
Aragorn knew that Elrond always referred to Earendil’s star as “he” or “him.” For that star was his father.
What was it like, wondered Aragorn, to have a father who was a star in the sky, whom you could never talk to, who never came to you when you called him, who never came running to comfort you when you saw something terrifying in your dreams, and who wasn’t even there all night like the other stars… Elrond had told him once that he and his brother Elros would wake up in the early hours before dawn and wait for their father’s star to rise in the east before the sun… They would wait every morning in the dark, shivering in the cold – two little elf children, waiting to catch a glimpse of their father who was a star in the sky.
Elrond had chosen to give him something that he had not had himself. He had not had a real person called “father” to talk to, to grumble about, to alternately love and to hate… a real person he could touch, hug or knock down to the ground with a vicious punch…
Aragorn and Elrond stood by the window, looking up at the stars. “You look so tired, child. Will you try to get some sleep now?” Aragorn nodded.
Once again, Elrond tucked him into bed. “Goodnight, Estel,” he said, bending down and kissing his son on the forehead.
Elrond walked out into the garden, his silver harp in his hand. A brilliant star blazed in the eastern sky that had not been there before.
“Earendil,” breathed Elrond, looking up at the star.
He set up his harp before him. It gleamed in the starlight as he began to play it to his father. The music burst forth like a radiant wave of joy that rose up into the sky… and as Elrond played on, he began to notice that he was not alone.
From a single star, his audience had swelled to include a quiet figure in a tattered green cloak and two tall elves who looked alike, even thought alike. Elrond’s music became quieter, more tender as he began to address his new audience. They drew closer to him, listening in rapt attention.
The figure in the green cloak stumbled on the uneven ground, and would have fallen, had it not been for the two tall grey-cloaked figures who caught him, steadied him and drew him close to them.
And as he sat in the garden under the stars playing to his sons, it seemed to Elrond that Earendil’s star lingered in the sky much longer than usual before disappearing into the dawn.