For four years, Estel traveled with the sons of Elrond at Elrond’s bidding, and carried out many good deeds. Gilraen stayed in Rivendell, with Elrond and Saurkalion, who had also stayed for a while with his wife. Though her days spent there were happy, she missed her son dearly, and often she was fearful of his safety.
It was in Estel’s twentieth year that he returned to Rivendell. Gilraen sat on the balcony by her room, looking out at the sunset. She heard the gates below her open, and saw a group of riders march in with their horses. When she saw her son, she cried with delight, and ran to meet him.
Elrohir looked at Estel, smiling. “Brother, you must be happy to be home.”
Estel also smiled, though his eyes did not show happiness. “Though I have seen Elrond’s home as my own for so many years, I fear that it is no longer so. I need to know what has been kept from me. I will speak with Lord Elrond as soon as time permits.”
Elrohir cast his eyes to the ground. “Would you no longer have us as your brothers?”
Estel came over to him, hands outstretched. “I shall always look upon you as my kin, Elrohir, but I need to know the truth.” The pair embraced briefly, before Estel saw his mother running to greet him.
She wore a long dress of green, with a simple belt around her waist. As she ran, the fabric rippled around her legs, and brushed against the soft ground, making the hem of the skirt brown and grimy.
“Mother!” She leapt into his arms, and kissed him warmly on the cheek, before pulling away to look at him carefully. “My son. I trust that you have enjoyed these past few years of freedom?”
He smiled affectionately, and hugged her once more. “I did mother, but I missed you dearly.” She smiled, and took his hand.
“Come, we have much to talk about. A feast is being prepared for you all.”
They began to walk towards the magnificent home of Elrond, hand in hand. Estel stopped a while, an urgent look coming to his face. “I must speak with Elrond mother, do you know where he is?”
Her brow furrowed at his question. “What do you wish to speak about? Surely it could wait a while? I have waited all these long years to see you once more, and now you have returned.” She paused, and looked away, letting go of his hand, quietly enjoying the guilt which she had seen come across her son’s face. “Or do you not wish to be seen with your mother anymore?”
His expression changed from guilt to amusement. “Mother, must you punish me so?” She laughed merrily. He took her hand once more, “Come, and let us talk a while.”
After many greetings at dinner, and a joyous feast in honour of the party’s return, Estel met Elrond in his study.
The elf sat at the desk, a large book of legend in his hands. As he read silently, his expression changed from interest to slight confusion, then back to interest again. Estel smiled as he looked upon him.
“Lord Elrond, you must have read that book a thousand times, and yet you still feign confusion?”
Elrond looked up with a beaming face. “Welcome home Estel. Sometimes I feel that you grew to know me too well.”
They laughed, as they embraced, not for the first time that evening. Elrond firmly held Estel by his shoulders, looking deeply into his eyes. “You have seen many things which interested you I believe?”
“Yes Lord Elrond. I have you to thank for allowing me to leave.”
“After you silently asking me to do so many times, how could I refuse?” He sat down again, and motioned for Estel to do the same.
“You have grown into a fine young man. You wish for me to tell you of your past, am I right?”
Estel grinned. The elf could read his thoughts with such ease; he hardly ever had to voice his questions. “If you would be so kind, Elrond, I wish to know of my father.”
Elrond sighed, and took Estel’s hand. “Here is not the place to tell you those things. Follow me.”
Elrond led Estel to the shrine of Isildur, and brought him to a statue, which bore the shards of Narsil. Estel admired the heirloom, and wondered who would have the honour of wielding the sword when it would be forged once more.
“Aragorn, it is your sword.” Estel jumped at Elrond’s words.
“Why did you call me by that name?”
Elrond placed a calming hand on Aragorn’s shoulder. “For that is your true name. You are Aragorn the Second, son of Arathorn, and you are the heir of Isildur. The heirlooms that you see in this room all belong to you, for you are to re-claim the throne of Gondor. That is your purpose.”
Aragorn paused for a moment, his brow furrowing in confusion. So this was the secret kept from him for so long a time? And Why? Was he in danger through his knowledge of it? Noticing Elrond’s worried expression, he stood taller than before, filled with pride, he now knew his worth, but he still had much to learn about his destiny. Elrond handed him a ring.
“Here is the ring of Barahir, the token of our kinship from afar; and here before you also are the shards of Narsil. With these you may yet do great deeds; for I foretell that the span of your life shall be greater than the measure of men, unless evil befalls you, or you fail the test.” He paused, and looked into Aragorn’s eyes.
“But your test will be hard, and long. The Sceptre of Annúminas I withhold, for you have yet to earn it.”
Aragorn returned Elrond’s gaze, and took his hands. Kneeling, he kissed them, and laid his forehead on their backs. “Thank you Lord Elrond, for answering my questions. You have told me all that I need to know.”
“Not quite,” said he, as he bid Aragorn rise, “There is still much for you to learn. But you are capable of that yourself now.”
Gilraen sat at the window, looking out at the fading horizon. The shadows blurred and blended with the dimming light. The light from her room streamed forth into the darkness, a beacon to all who would wish to see her sitting there.
There was a soft knock at her door. She turned and faced it, expecting the form of her son to enter joyfully. She smiled tenderly. “Come in.”
Sure enough, it was her son, Aragorn. He came to her, his heart beating furiously. The joy of discovering his past had nearly overwhelmed him. But there were still things he wished to know about his father. “It is a beautiful night,” she said softly, turning back towards the night sky. “Aragorn,” his heart skipped a beat at her calling him by his true name, “do you remember that I told you of the stars?”
He came to join her at the window, and pointed to a bright star high in the sky. “Yes I do, I looked to it so many times over the past years, and thought of you.”
“It is as I thought then. I could sense that you had not forgotten me.” She turned to him, and opened her arms. They embraced briefly. “My son,” she muttered into his hair, “I am so proud to see you come into your manhood so soon. But there are still things that you wish to know, are there not?”
He broke from her hold slightly. “I wish to know of my father.”
“Then I shall answer any questions that you may ask.”
They talked long into the night, Gilraen spoke fondly of her husband, and Aragorn finally felt sure of his purpose. As he heard the tales of his father’s proposal to her, his heart leapt for the knowledge of the bond between his parents. When he heard of his battles, the adrenaline forced through his veins, and he longed to have fought side by side with him.
After midnight, Aragorn took leave of his mother, and with a fond kiss goodnight, went to his room. He slept soundly for the first time in years, and dreamt of his father’s battles and victories. But his dreams were touched with sorrow, as he thought of his father’s final battle.
After sunset the next day, Gilraen sat with Elrond in his study. He told her of the many lands which she had never seen, and who lived there. She heard tales of hobbits from the shire, one of whom had visited Rivendell, though she had not heard of him.
She marvelled at all that she had not ventured to see in her lifetime, and wondered if she should endeavour to travel as her son had, though only to see and experience other places and cultures. Her quiet life in Rivendell had been one of choice, though now she doubted whether it had been the best choice to make.
Aragorn walked through the woods. The heavy fragrance of pine filled the air, and a feeling of joy filled him as he looked once more upon the beauty of the land of Rivendell. He began to sing.
The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinúviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering
Among the dusty white stems of the silver birches, he saw a fair maiden walking. He had heard of the elf-minstrels making things appear when they sang of them, and as he watched the maiden, he felt that this had happened, or else he had fallen into a dream.
There before him walked the image of Lúthien, wearing a mantle of silver and blue. Her raven hair swam behind her, and her brow was bound with gems that shone like stars.
Fearing that he would never see the fair lady again, he began to run after her, crying, Tinúviel, Tinúviel!
The maiden turned to him and smiled. “Who are you? Why do you call me by that name?”
He blushed as he replied. “I believed you to be Lúthien Tinúviel, of whom I was singing. If you are not she, then you walk in her likeness.”
“So many have said,” she replied, “however her name is not mine. Who are you?”
Aragorn stood tall as he replied with pride. “Estel I was called, but I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Isildur’s heir, Lord of the Dúnedain.” As he finished, his shoulders slumped, as he thought that even his high lineage, at which his heart had sung so joyfully, was now no measure compared to her dignity and beauty.
But to his relief, she laughed merrily and said, “Then we are kin from afar. I am Arwen, Elrond’s daughter, and am also named Undómiel.”
“Lord Elrond, do you wish to torture me with these tales of other kingdoms?” Gilraen’s face had fallen at hearing so many tales from afar, even though she had at first revelled in their telling.
Elrond looked up from his books with concern. “My lady, do you wish then, to travel into the danger that these lands hold?”
She became indignant, “I have not heard of any danger.”
He shrugged slightly, “That is because I have not told you. I am merely sparing your feelings by telling you those tales which you would wish to hear.”
She relaxed and looked back to the books. A map lay on the desk, and she picked it up and studied it carefully. She looked at her home, west of Tharbad. She longed with all her heart to return, and see the familiar surroundings she had grown up in.
“Some day, Lady Gilraen, you will return,” she told herself. She apologized to Elrond, and left, retiring to her room for the evening, taking a book with her.
In the few days that followed, Aragorn was changed. He did not speak so freely to Gilraen as he had, and she sensed that something had happened. She met him in his room one day, and asked him what troubled him.
He sat by the door, and told her quietly of his meeting with Arwen in the woods. She could tell at his first words how he looked upon the elf-maiden, and knew that Elrond would never approve of his feelings for her.
She took his hand lightly, and after he had finished, spoke to him comfortingly. “My son, your aim is high, even for a descendant of kings. Arwen is the noblest and fairest lady who walks this earth. It is not fit that mortal should wed with Elf-kin.”
His tone was defensive. “Yet we have some part in that kinship, if the tale of my forefathers that I have learned is true.”
“This is true, but that was long ago and in another age of this world before our race was diminished. I am afraid; for without the good will of master Elrond the heirs of Isildur will soon come to an end. But I do not think that you will have his approval in this matter.”
His face fell, and tears came to his eyes. The sudden truth of Elrond’s opinion dawned on him, and he knew that his love for Arwen Undómiel would not be a matter to be taken lightly.
“Then bitter my days will be, and I will walk in the wild alone.”
“That will indeed be your fate.” Though Gilraen had a measure of the foresight of her people, she said no more to him of her apprehension, nor did she speak to anyone of what her son had told her.
The fall of the year was upon them; the leaves turned to crimson flame, and fell dry on the ground. The air was still warm, and the beauty of Rivendell did not leave.
Elrond had called Aragorn to his chamber, and Gilraen sensed that he knew of her son’s feelings. She feared that he would be too harsh on him, and disown him for his ardour.
She paced the room, her soft footfalls echoing on the wooden floorboards. If Elrond did know, would her son think that she had betrayed him? Would he storm into her room in a few moments, temper raging at her disloyalty? She feared it would be so.
She sat once more by the widow, and opened the book that she had brought those many days before.
A History of Middle-earth.
She had pored over it for days, examining every last detail of every culture, and still her need to travel grew.
Only a few hours later, Aragorn entered her room, and told her that he was leaving once more.
“What did Elrond want?”
“He knew of my meeting with Arwen, I asked if you had told him and he said nay.”
“I have told him nothing, I have remained true to my promise to you.”
He stepped forward and placed his hands on her shoulders. “I know, mother, do not worry, I will be safe. I am travelling again with Elrohir and Elladan. I will return soon.”
She looked down at the book, which she had left. “I may not be here when you return.”
He looked at her questioningly. “Where will you be?”
“Home.” Her eyes shone at the thought of her homeland. She had already told him much of her home, and how she wanted to return there. They kept no secrets from each other for long.
“Then I shall come to see you there. Good luck. I love you, very much.”
She smiled lovingly. “I love you too, my son.” She kissed his cheek, and he left, heading for the courtyard, where his horse was ready for him, along with his brothers.
He mounted Roheryn, and looked to Elladan. The Elf looked back, a slight smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “Are you ready to ride, Aragorn?”
Aragorn smiled. “Yes Elladan. I am.”
Here ends part three of Onen I-Estel Edain, A woman’s tale
“The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair…”
Comes from the lay of Luthien, which can also be found in the fellowship of the Ring. Aragorn sings it to comfort the hobbits at Weathertop.