Aramir and Narmo both leapt at the sudden voice that accompanied their exit from the ring. Aramir turned to where the voice had come from, only to see Kellian and about five other students standing there, staring at him eagerly. He led Narmo towards the stable, placing a neutral expression upon his face, and the students gathered around him and the horse as they walked.
Aramir walked in silence for a moment, watching in amusement as a growing look of annoyance and eagerness crossed his friend’s face. Finally he brought Narmo to a halt and looked at Kellian. “They told me to go home…” He trailed off and watched the Elf’s face fill with sorrow, then continued, “to get my things so I can move in with you.” He grinned broadly at Kellian.
“Yes!” Kellian cried, throwing his arms around Aramir. “Yes yes yes!!” He danced around Aramir and Narmo, unable to stand still.
Aramir raised his eyebrows at his friend, smiling brightly. The other students were less expressive than the Elf, but they all congratulated Aramir as well.
“So when are you going?” Kellian asked, bringing himself to a halt in front of his new roommate.
“Right now, as soon as I find out if a certain Elf wants to come along.”
Kellian’s face lit up. “Of course he does! Come on, let’s go get Scyelë.”
Aramir raised an eyebrow and followed the Elf toward the stable. “What makes you think I meant you?” he asked indignantly.
Kellian stuck his nose in the air in mock arrogance. “And what other Elf would someone like you be associating with?” he asked haughtily.
Aramir grinned. “None. You’re the lowliest Elf I know.”
“Hey!” Kellian protested, then doubled over with laughter. He paused in mid-laugh, suddenly recognizing Narmo for the first time. “They made you ride him?” he asked in surprise.
Aramir patted the horse, who whickered and butted Aramir with his head. “I don’t see anything wrong with him; I like him. Lee said I could use him for training.” He grinned.
Kellian nodded slowly. “I brought Scyelë from Rivendell, so I never tried any of the horses here. All the students say Narmocarca is wild. He seems to like you…that must mean something…” He grinned wickedly, reached up, and patted Narmo’s nose.
They reached the stable and Kellian disappeared inside. He reappeared a moment later leading a black stallion, or rather, he was followed by the black horse, for the animal wore no tack. Kellian patted his horse and introduced him to Aramir and Narmo, then swung onto Scyelë’s back. Aramir removed Narmo’s halter and mounted him, noting Kellian’s pleased look upon seeing that his friend rode without tack.
Together the two friends rode out of the training centre. They were given a return password upon leaving the gates and were made to swear not to reveal it to anyone. Kellian opened his mouth to joke about something, but the look on the guard’s face caused Aramir to stop his friend before the Elf said anything he would regret. They talked the entire way back to Aramir’s house, showing off riding tricks as they rode. Narmo pranced around excitedly, tossing his head and dancing eagerly. Aramir patted his horse with a laugh, pleased that the Itir had decided to let him use Narmo. He hadn’t had a horse to ride since his father’s gelding had died.
By the time they arrived, they each knew a brief but very thorough history of the other’s life. Aramir was completely honest with his Elven friend in everything save his secret, and as far as he could tell, Kellian was honest with him.
They trotted across the last field up to Aramir’s small house. “Mother!” Aramir called. “Mother!”
His mother’s face appeared in the door moments later, looking both pleased and surprised to see her son. She was followed out the door by a familiar figure.
“Rin!” Aramir exclaimed.
“Aramir!” Rin called out eagerly, rushing forward to embrace his friend as Aramir dismounted. “How did it go?”
“How did you know?” Aramir asked in surprise.
“What do you think?” Rin muttered, rolling his eyes.
“You’ll have to excuse him,” Kellian broke in. “Aramir has suffered a trauma. Namely, me.” The Elf grinned.
Rin raised his eyebrows and snorted. “Aramir?” he asked eagerly.
Aramir’s huge smile gave him away before he could say anything. Rin’s eyes filled with pride and awe as he re-embraced his friend. He was followed by Aramir’s mother, tears of pride in her shining eyes. Kellian stood next to Scyelë, a smile across his fair face.
Ryal pulled away from him and smiled broadly. “Oh Aramir,” she said. “I’m so proud of you. What was it like?”
“I’m sworn to secrecy,” Aramir said solemnly.
“Aw, really?” Rin asked, clearly disappointed.
“Yes,” Aramir said, silencing Kellian with a look. “But I think maybe some food could coax it out of me.” He grinned.
Rin, Ryal, and Kellian laughed. “Of course!” his mother cried, looking slightly saddened. “A last meal before you go. Rin, you are perfectly welcome to stay, and of course Aramir- your friend…” she trailed off and gestured to Kellian.
“Oh!” Aramir exclaimed. “Excuse me. Mother, this is Kellian Cúelen of Rivendell. Kellian, my mother, Ryal, and one of my close friends, Rin. Kellian is my roommate, Ulmo forbid.” He grinned.
Kellian shot Aramir a mock scowl before turning to Ryal and Rin. He greeted them both with Elven courtesy, bowing to Rin and kissing Ryal’s hand. His formality was a surprise to Aramir, who had never seen the Elf as serious as he was now. His serious mood was short-lived, however, and he bounded into the house after Rin. Narmo and Scyelë stayed in the yard, grazing contentedly.
Ryal set to work straight away preparing supper for herself and the three young men. Aramir, Kellian, and Rin, at her insistence, sat at the table and waited for dinner. They talked nonstop about training, fighting, weapons, and anything else they found they had in common. Rin told Kellian about working in his father’s sword shop, and the Elf listened in rapt attention, after which he told Rin and Aramir about his life in Rivendell. Aramir held his story for last, waiting for his mother to sit down at the table. She set plate after plate of delicious-looking food upon their small table, then sat down next to her son. Not content to eat in silence, Kellian answered all of Ryal’s questions about himself, Rivendell, and the Itir training he had already had. When Kellian was finished, or at least paused for a moment, Aramir broke in and described his tests. He told everything he could remember about the fights, the feelings that he had experienced, and the reaction of the Itir, or lack thereof. His mother and friends listened with eager interest, asking frequent questions. When he was finished, his mother smiled sadly.
“Oh Aramir,” she said. “I’m so proud of you. But what will I do without you?”
“You’re better off without me,” Aramir joked.
Kellian burst into laughter. “I was not about to say the same thing, nope, no, not at all.”
Ryal smiled at the Elf. “I’m glad to see Aramir has found such a friend. I can see why you two get on so well.”
Kellian grinned slightly, while Rin looked saddened at the thought of his friend leaving.
Aramir saw his sad look. “Oh Rin, don’t make me feel guilty,” he teased. “I’ll give you a few weeks and then send the Itir out to watch you.” He smiled brightly.
Rin laughed. “That will be the day, Aramir,” he told his friend, rolling his eyes.
“Oh come now,” Kellian admonished. “You cannot be any worse than some of the students. Believe me.” He rolled his shining blue eyes.
“Come,” Aramir invited. “One last practice before I go.”
Rin opened his mouth to protest, but Kellian leapt to his feet, seized Rin’s wrist, and dragged him outside. Aramir and his mother followed them out, laughing.
Once outside, Kellian drew his sword and saluted Rin, smiling eagerly.
Rin shook his head again. “I really don’t think-” he began, but before he could say more, Kellian dove for him, sword extended. Rin leapt to the side and yanked his own sword out of its sheath.
“Hey!” Aramir protested. “Unfair attacking an unarmed man!” He drew his sword and leapt into the fray.
They fought across Aramir’s yard, each man for himself, although every so often two would gang up on the other. Rin was not nearly as skilled as Aramir, and he had not the training that Kellian had, but he fought well anyway, drawing on his knowledge of swords to strike in weak and vulnerable places.
Ryal sat by the door, watching and laughing as the fight died and was then reborn, sometimes between two of the young men, and sometimes between all three. In the midst of another every-man-for-himself battle, the sound of hoof beats struck Aramir’s ears. He glanced slightly towards the source of the sound to see a chestnut horse cantering across the field. Galdaron. Aramir smirked to himself, then turned back to the fight, choosing to ignore the young noble who was riding into his yard.
Galdaron rode up, bringing his horse to an abrupt halt. He stared at the three combatants with a look of mixed surprise and disdain.
Aramir stepped back and held his sword up. Kellian and Rin stopped as well, both panting hard. Aramir turned to Galdaron. “Hello Galdaron,” he greeted, forcing himself to hide his smirk. “What can we do for you?”
Galdaron raised his eyebrows and stared down at Aramir haughtily. “You can tell me where you were last night, Aramir,” he said, curiosity obvious in his voice.
Aramir raised his eyebrows in return and glanced back at Kellian. The Elf grinned. “And since when is my whereabouts a concern of yours, Galdaron?”
“Since I saw you speaking with that Itir yesterday.”
“Ahh,” Kellian broke in. “I see. Since he has friends in high places, is that it?”
Galdaron stared at the Elf as though seeing him for the first time, and he probably was. His eyes widened slightly as they swept over the insignia on Kellian’s tunic- the insignia worn by Itir trainees.
“And you are…?” he asked.
“I am Kellian Cúelen, Aramir’s roommate while we train. Does that answer your question, sir?” The Elf’s courtesy was insincere and mocking, and Aramir tried in vain not to laugh.
“So you’ve been accepted to train?” Galdaron asked Aramir, ignoring Kellian.
Aramir merely nodded. “I leave tonight to take residence at the lodgings for the trainees.”
Galdaron nodded back, slowly in disbelief. “I see,” he muttered. “Well, all my best wishes. Farewell.” He turned and rode away, not looking back.
” ‘All my best wishes’ ,” Kellian mocked. “And all my wishes that that horse of yours throws you off.”
Rin snickered, then turned and glanced in the direction in which Galdaron had ridden. The sun was setting over the hills, sending a red glow high into the air. “I suppose you should be leaving soon as well” he murmured, not daring to look at Aramir.
Aramir sheathed his sword and nodded slowly. “Yes.” As much as he was looking forward to this, he would certainly miss Rin and his other friends, and of course his mother.
“Your things are ready,” Ryal said from behind her son.
He turned around to see his mother holding several sacks containing his things. He smiled sadly. “Thank you, mother,” he whispered, leaning over and giving her a loving embrace. “I’ll miss you. And don’t worry, I’ll come visit as often as I can. I’m not going far, you know.”
Ryal nodded, wiping a tear from her dark eyes. “I know Aramir,” she assured him. “Good luck.” She hugged him back tightly for a moment, then drew back and smiled sadly.
Aramir turned to Rin and smiled the same sad smile that his mother wore.
“You are right,” Rin told him. “You’re not going far. Maybe I could come visit some time.” He looked doubtful at his idea, but Kellian nodded.
“Of course you can,” he told the young man. “That is allowed.”
Rin smiled at the Elf. “Watch out for him, will you?” he asked with a grin.
Kellian winked and bowed to Rin. “I’ll try my best.”
Aramir rolled his black eyes and hugged Rin before the young man could tease him more. They held their embrace for a moment, and then drew away.
“Namárië,” Aramir said quietly.
Rin repeated the farewell and watched as Aramir mounted Narmo. He swung his pack over his shoulder, adjusted his sword, and looked down at his friend and mother. He nodded once, then turned and led the way out of the yard, not daring to look back.