In this chapter, I have referred to Aragorn as Estel, for his lineage was kept from him until the age of twenty, and so it is in the interest of being true to Tolkien that I have done this.
Gilraen and Estel lived in Rivendell peacefully. Their time there was joyful, and Estel grew to be a young boy of good learning, and kind manner. He spent much time with Elrond, who taught him everything that he would need to know in order to fulfill his purpose, though that purpose was still unknown to him.
It was a fine summer day, the year 2947 of the third age. Estel was now sixteen years old, and Elrond still taught him the ways of Middle-earth. Gilraen walked through the passageways of Elrond’s home, which were now all familiar to her. The fragrant smell of honeysuckle and lilac filled the air as she walked out onto a high balcony. She sat on a wooden chair, and began to stitch blankets, a habit that she had taken up in Estel’s infancy. It gave her comfort to keep herself occupied.
Thus she stayed for many hours, until the sun fell down behind the horizon. A voice spoke from behind her. “She is kind tonight”
Gilraen turned slowly, and saw Elrond looking down at her. “Who?”
“The sun. She casts many shadows, but nothing is hidden therein.”
Gilraen smiled. “How often must you tell me my fears Lord Elrond?”
He returned the smile, and moved closer to her, his green cloak sweeping the floor as he walked. He sat on a chair next to her, and looked at her attentively.
“How long will you fear the future, my lady?”
Gilraen turned her attention back to her task. Her hands began to shake, and she gave up the chore with a sigh.
“The future is no longer that which I fear.” Elrond’s face showed concern, but she shrugged. “It is not a matter of importance Lord Elrond, simply a painful memory.”
He placed his hand on hers. “I too, share similar memories to yours.”
Frowning, Gilraen turned to the gardens below her. She looked down at her son, who was tending to his steed, a fine dappled horse, its coat a clean cream, with chestnut spots. The creature was as proud and noble as its owner, though both were yet to mature.
“What if he should suffer the same fate as those before him?”
“I do not believe that his destiny will lead him to such an untimely end. He is becoming his father, don’t you think?”
“I do see my love in him. He has the same affection for all things good.”
“But although he shares his fathers traits, that does not mean that he will share his doom.”
Gilraen smiled, finding comfort in his words, and agreed to come down to dinner.
Around the table sat many individuals, Elrond and Glorfindel sat at the head of the table, with Elrond’s sons close-by. Estel sat next to his mother, and across from them sat two other elven-folk, Saurkalion, a wise elf, with the features of a warrior, and Gayacúwen, his wife, a fair elven-lady, with bright inquisitive eyes, and pale skin.
The talk was lively, and the food sublime, though throughout the meal, Gilraen alone sat silent, and barely looked at her food. Estel looked at her, and touched the back of her hand.
“Mother, what’s wrong?”
Gilraen looked with admiring eyes to her son, and for a while held his gaze. She realized that this time of peace would not last forever, and that soon, he would be told of his lineage, and she did not know whether he would choose to follow the path laid out for him.
“My son, you are becoming a wise man, though you still have much to learn.” She kissed his forehead, and left the table.
Elrond watched her depart. At length, he turned to Estel.
“Dear boy, do not fret, your mother is tired, and weary of memories. She will, no doubt, be herself again with the break of day.”
Estel glanced at the door, and turned his mind to food again. After dinner, he went to his mother’s room.
Gilraen sat by the window, looking out at the stars. From below, Estel could hear the joyful singing of the elves. They were welcoming their guests, Saurkalion and Gayacúwen, as was traditional for the House of Elrond, with song and poetry in their fair language.
“But long ago he rode away,
And where he dwelleth none can say,
For into darkness fell his star
In Mordor where the shadows are”
Gilraen beckoned to her son. She pointed to a star, high above them, which shone bright in the cold night. “You see that star, Estel? Your father and I would look to it often in times of need. When he left us, I looked to it often for comfort, though it holds no hope for me any longer.” She sighed. “But for you, it may still hold hope.”
He looked at her closely. “Mother, you are yet to tell me who my real father was. You have told me little about him.”
She finally turned to him, and stood. Gilraen was now forty years of age, though her beauty had not left her. And yet, in her face, he saw that she had seen many things, both glad and sorrowful.
“My son, Estel, you will know all you need to, when your time comes.” She smiled at him, and stroked his hair. She looked deep into his eyes, and once again, she was reminded of the daydream she had had when her husband had died.
He stood tall and proud, and looked content as he tended to his horse. She glanced around quickly to see where her child had gone, but the only person she saw was this young man. She saw him look at her briefly; he nodded at her, and smiled affectionately.
She turned away, and walked to the window once more. “Just remember what I have told you.” He came next to her as she continued, “That you will never know everything, and that most of the time, it is best that you do not.”
With this, he willed himself to resignation, and spoke no more of his father to her, for he saw that it caused her great pain, although she tried to hide it. Though in his heart, he knew that something important was being hidden from him, and he longed to know what that was.
The next morning, Estel sat in his study with Elrond, looking at maps of Middle-earth, learning place-names and distances. At length, he spoke.
“Elrond, why must I learn these things from maps and books? What is it that prevents me from going into the wild, and seeing it for myself?”
Elrond stopped, and looked at him. He had long feared this question, but he knew better than to give its true answer at that time.
“Estel, if you wish to go into the wild, you should first know where the roads and paths will take you. You cannot simply hope that you will find your way back through chance.”
Estel looked at Elrond. He felt confined, trapped by the walls that surrounded him. His face was defiant, his jaw set, but his eyes began to flood with tears. Elrond looked at him, feeling sorrow in his heart that he should imprison the boy, he wished that he could allow him to be free, but he turned back to the maps on the table, and resumed his teaching. Estel looked out of the window to the lands beyond.
That evening, when all had gone to their chambers, Estel left his, and walked quietly down the passageway. He made no sound; his step was as light as the elves themselves, he touched nothing but the warm wooden floor in his passing.
He went out into the crisp night air, and smelled the cool sweet fragrance of the gardens. Walking to the stable, he began to feel nervous. It was the first time he had considered disobeying Lord Elrond, whom he loved, and revered also. He had never rebelled before, and the sensations he felt were new to him. His stomach churned, his temples ached, and his mind was constantly racing with fears of being discovered.
He swallowed hard, and decided to ignore his fears. He made ready his horse, and for the first time, prepared to leave Rivendell, and explore the lands beyond.
Gilraen’s dreams were troubled. She saw many things that she could not understand, and many that she would wish to forget: her son writhing on a block of stone, and figures moving silently around him in the shadows.
She tossed in her bed, as the figures moved closer to her son. The sheets tangled around her legs as she turned over again and again.
There were gray faces coming from the shadows, twisted and tormented, their mouths turned upwards into vicious grins, as they took delight in wounding her son.
The young boy looked from one face to another, his eyes filled with terror. He began to call for her, but she was too far away to hear his calls. Suddenly, a figure leapt towards him, wielding a spear of cold metal.
Estel rode with speed westwards, away from Rivendell. He had crossed the Ford of Bruinen, and had followed the road with care. He did not wish to return at once, but to explore the lands close-by by day, and return the following evening. Whatever punishment he may receive would be a small price to pay for the joy of feeling free, as he had once been, long before his memories would reach.
The sky above him was clear, the light growing as dawn approached. He heard cockerels crowing, and caught glimpses of badgers scurrying back to their daytime hideouts. His hair flowed behind him, the wind running through it like loving fingers, comforting him as his mother would.
After many hours of riding swiftly, he crossed the Last Bridge, and found a secluded spot near to the road, where he would be hidden from casual sight. He lay his head down on a mound of grass, and fell asleep, leaving his horse free to graze in the field, until it was needed once more.
Gilraen woke with a start, her heart beating wildly within her chest. The morning sunlight streamed through the window, casting faint shadows on the walls. She threw off the covers, and rushed out of the door and into the passageway, making her way to her son’s room.
After a short while of rest, Estel felt refreshed, though the cold of the night had had its effect on him. He shivered as he brushed down his damp clothes, and called to his horse. The creature trotted happily to him, glad that its master had woken. It sensed that the day would be eventful, and that it would see many things that had once been hidden. When his master mounted once more, he immediately took off with speed along the road. They fled away from the river Mitheithel, towards the Weather hills, which lay before them, as small indistinct swellings on the horizon.
Gilraen entered her son’s room quietly, not wanting to disturb him. She saw him lying in bed, the coverlet drawn up above his head. She stood in the doorway for a while, watching her son for any sign of a troubled dream. When she was content, she returned to her room, and made ready for breakfast.
At the breakfast table, everyone waited patiently for Estel to come down. At length, Gilraen became weary of looking at an empty chair.
Elrond spoke to her. “Perhaps you should wake your son to another late morning, my lady?” he asked with a casual smile.
She smiled also, “No matter what I teach him, he will never rise from bed on time.”
Elrond and the other guests laughed merrily, knowing that Estel had not woken for an early morn since he was of seven years. Gilraen left the table, and walked along the passageways to her son’s room for the second time that morning.
Upon entering, she was not surprised to find him still asleep. She approached him, and took the coverlet down from his head.
Upon looking at the bed, she gasped. Her son had gone, a bolster lying in his place, leaving no word of his whereabouts, and for the first time since they came to Rivendell, she felt fearful for his safety.
As the sun began to fall from its highest point, Estel arrived at Weathertop. Having rode far, his horse became weary. Estel let the creature loose once more, meaning to climb to Weathertop’s summit, and view the lands that surrounded it. He meant to go no further, and to begin his journey back to Rivendell that eve.
After near to an hour’s climbing, he reached the top. He stood facing south, and was pleased that he had succeeded in his efforts. He looked to Bree, and the South Downs. He was amazed that Elrond had kept him from seeing the lands. There seemed nothing impure to the west, and the only feeling of dread he had came to him when he looked to the Downs, where a dense mist was building. After many hours of sitting, and looking at the lands before him, he stood up, said a silent farewell to the scene before him, and began to descend the hill.
Elrond sent four elven riders to search for Estel before harm came to him. Riders went their separate ways from Rivendell. Saurkalion took the western route, towards Estel, and rode with great ease until he crossed the Last Bridge before nightfall.
A short distance from the bridge, he dismounted, and walked to the edge of the road. There he stooped down to look at the mound of turf in front of him. He ran his fingers through the grass for a few seconds, before mounting again, and continuing his journey West.
Night was falling by the time Estel began to ride again. He did not wish to stay for another night’s sleep, but to continue riding to Rivendell, and reach it before daybreak. The wide lands had begun to trouble him. He felt as though someone was watching from the shadows that surrounded him.
But as he rode on, he became less alert, and did not listen for danger as intently as he had upon leaving Rivendell. As long as he heard the powerful rhythm of his horses hoof beats on the road, he felt safe.
When Saurkalion was nearly half way to Weathertop, he steadied his horse, and listened to the hoof-beats traveling on the wind. He decided to stay as he was, in the middle of the road, awaiting whatever rider should be approaching, to find news of Estel.
He did not doubt that Estel had indeed traveled west, and was anxious to hear any news of him. So he waited, expecting a fellow elven-rider to approach. The sight that he saw filled him with relief.
Estel stopped his horse. He saw vaguely in the light a rider not too far ahead. As he rode on slowly, he saw that the rider was Saurkalion. Suddenly his heart filled with dread; he realized he would indeed be punished. Elrond had sent out riders to find him. He became suddenly concerned that his journey had worried his mother, and felt a flood of guilt well up inside.
He went to Saurkalion, and greeted him warmly. The elf simply let out a laugh that ringed through the still night like birdsong. “Estel, my young friend, I am happy to see you once more. Lord Elrond has been worried for your safety. I was sent, along with three others, to find you.”
Estel sighed deeply. “He will not be happy to see me when I return. I am afraid that my little adventure has worried my mother.”
The elf looked deeply into Estel’s eyes. “My boy, you are not to be blamed for wishing to see what lies beyond the walls and fences that you have been confined to.”
“Then I am not to be punished?”
“You will receive some form of punishment no doubt, but no punishment will ever hide the fact that you cannot be kept indoors any longer.”
Estel smiled, and was glad to ride once more to Rivendell. The still of the night had disturbed him, and the thought of seeing the familiar passageways once more was no longer a burden to him. Though he still feared Elrond’s actions, in Rivendell he felt safe.
As they approached the gate, Estel saw Elrond standing on the threshold of his home. He breathed deeply, and walked towards him, leaving his horse in Saurkalion’s care.
“Lord Elrond, I am deeply sorry to have worried you…”
“Do not speak, my boy,” he interrupted. His tone was not harsh, but full of care. “Why did you take flight as you did? Your mother was sick with worry, and I, too, was afraid for your safety. If you wanted to go into the wild that much, you would have waited till the morning, and asked me to go with you.”
Estel now became angered. “And would you have agreed? Would you have taken me to those lands, just for one day?”
The elf was silent, and cast his eyes to the ground. “No, you would not have taken me – Which was why I had to go. If I had stayed for one more day within these walls, I would have lost all hope that there was another world than this. Please Elrond,” Estel looked to his foster-father with tears welling up inside.
He fought back the tears, and spoke again. “Father.”
Elrond looked up, and saw the emotion in Estel’s eyes. He came to him, and held his hand. “You have no need of me as your father any longer. I will remain your guardian, but your father belongs to the past.” He paused, wondering when he would tell Estel of his true father. “Your mother, she is waiting.”
On seeing the pain his words caused Estel, Elrond spoke once more. “You will grow to be a great man, and I am proud to have brought you this far, but you are to make your own decisions from now on, Estel. Soon, you will know everything that you desire to know.”
Here ends part two of Onen-I Estel Edain, A Woman’s Tale
“But long ago he rode away,
And where he dwelleth none can say,
For into darkness fell his star
In Mordor where the shadows are”
This is taken from the tale of Gilgalad, and can be found in the fellowship of the ring. Sam sings it on the way to Weathertop.