They stayed at the towers for two more days. Aragorn had to admit the delay was almost as frustrating for him as it was for Amaril but for her sake he did not let that on. She seemed to have resigned herself to the fact that she was all but incapable of making such a journey, and spent much of the time resting and gathering such strength as she could.
On that second day he helped her up the long stairs to the top where they could both see the jagged teeth of Ered Luin scratch the sky and, through a large gap in the mountains, the glimmer on the horizon that was the sea. Elladan and Elrohir had ridden out to meet a group going to the Havens; they were hoping the Elves would agree to inform Círdan of Amaril’s pending arrival. When they told Amrail of what they intended she laughed and said she’d learned the hard way what happens when one comes upon Elves unannounced. They laughed with her and denied any responsibility for the attitudes of their Mirkwood kin. Then off they went, into the grasses and hills, and now the two humans were alone on top of a tower, staring at the distant sea.
For a long time Amaril said nothing, and Aragorn was beginning to wonder if she was even awake, but then she said, “When we draw closer will we be able to see the other side?”
“Other side of what?” he asked, not quite understanding the question.
“Once I climbed a peak, back in Rhûn, and from the top I could see the Inland Sea, and the forested lands across it. Will it be the same for the Western Sea?”
“No,” he answered. “You will see the edges of the Gulf of Lune, and then beyond that the open waters, but there is no other side.”
“None at all?”
“Once there was Númenor, and beyond that Tol Eressea and Valinor, but when Númenor foundered the Blessed Lands were removed from the world, and those that would sail west will only come back the way they came.”
“But you speak of Elves that pass west as if they are dead or gone forever, if Elves do not die.”
“The ways to Tol Eressea and Valinor are open still to the Eldar, but not to Men. Only two Men have ever set foot on the Blessed Realms. One was Beren, and he had to die first, and though Lúthien attained the grace for them both to return to finish their lives as mortals he never spoke to another Man again. The other made the journey as a living Man, but that was Eärendil, and he was only Man by half. Even so, he did not return to walk among the people of Middle Earth, but was instead given a ship to sail across the skies.”
“Yes, Elrond told me that story…the star is his father, is it not?”
“Yes. To him and to his children was given the choice: to live as Elves or as Men. Elrond’s brother chose to become a Man, and founded Númenor and of him comes the Line of Kings. Elrond was wary of the bitter taste of mortality, and loving the Elves chose to be one of the Eldar, though it sundered him from his brother forever.”
“And the choice…is it still able to be made? Could you become an Elf?”
“Nay, but any one of Elrond’s children could become a Man.” Unbidden to his mind came his first meeting with Arwen, when he saw her dancing in the gardens of Imladris and called her Tinuviel. He’d thought he’d stumbled back in time, or was living in a dream, and when he’d learned the truth he’d been both awed and dismayed. Elrond, of course, had stepped between them, and given Aragorn a choice of his own to make: to rise up and claim his birthright, or go down into the darkness with what was left of the Dúndedain. He would not suffer his daughter to trade the Twilight for anyone less than a King, for he understood what the choice of Lúthien meant. Many years later Aragorn and Arwen met again, and on the top of Cerin Amroth, amid the elanor and niphrodel Arwen made her choice, just as Aragorn had made his in the halls of Rivendell thirty years before.
A soft breeze came out of the North, bring the chill of ice with it. It had the effect of pulling him from his reverie. Amaril was still staring out at the endless horizon, gazing on what she had sought for. The breeze strenghtened to a gust of wind, and clouds were gathering. It would be a cold rain this afternoon. He tapped her shoulder to get her attention. She glanced up at him and he pointed to the north. She understood immediately and slowly turned for the stairs.
The Elf twins were still gone when they returned to the main hall, so Aragorn built up the campfire and lit a pipe. Amaril sat quietly, saying nothing, though from the look on her face he could tell her curiosity was roused. “Go ahead and spit it out,” he said. The illness had done nothing to abate her thirst for knowledge, and lately the questions had gotten tougher. Still, they passed the time.
“I was wondering if maybe I could have a look at Narsil,” she said, a bit timidly. “I meant to ask before leaving Rivendell, but never got the chance, and Arwen told me it was not something to be spoken of in the open.” Aragorn almost choked with surprise. That was not the question he had been expecting.
“No,” he agreed, recovering himself. “It is not. But you are right to think that this is a safe place.” He laid aside the pipe and pulled the broken blade from its sheath. The fire light glinted off of it and she stared as if entranced. “Be careful; the edges are still sharp,” he said, extending the broken sword to her. She took it slowly, gripping the hilt. The steel was broken a foot below the crosspiece, and she held the fragment up in front of her, looking at her relfection in the cold metal.
“Is this all that is left of it?”
“No; the other shards are in the sheath. They don’t come in or out so easily though.” She grinned ruefully at this and handed the sword back.
“There is power in this blade,” she said. “Great strength had the man who wielded it.”
“He did indeed.” Aragorn looked at the blade for a few moments. He rarely unsheathed it. It had been a beautiful, well-balanced weapon once, and would be so again in days not too distant, but for now it seemed little more than a relic of a bygone era. None before him had had the will to reforge it; it waslittle more than an heirloom, an old trinket passed from father to son, but there are heirlooms and ther are heirlooms, and in this one dwelt the power of the Westernesse. To be honest, it was silly to carry the thing. He had little use for a broken sword, and waving it around was as good as shouting his name to the Enemy as anything else he could think of. For that reason he had not taken it with him when he went to hunt Gollum on the marches of Mordor, but left the blade instead with his foster-father. He’d eluded Sauron many times, very narrowly on occasion, but the Deciever did not yet know that he, Aragorn, Isildur’s Heir, walked the earth. Valinor help him if the Enemy learned too soon.
“My people made many objects of beauty and power,” he said, still looking at the blade. “Many are gone now, gone beneath the waves of the Sundering Seas. Many others are lost, gone into the dust with the Kings of old, but a few remain. The ring of Barahir, the Sceptre, and this sword are among them.” He slid it back into its sheath. “Sauron has yet to pay in full for the suffering he brought on this world.” He voice was harsh with vengeance, and Amaril looked at him with a bit of a start. She had not seen this mood on him before, but he could see that she was not frightened. No, her gaze seemed to reflect a quiet understanding. She too bore an ancient hatred, a hatred so deep that the very touch of an evil thing burned her very flesh.
“Love and hate are funny things, Aragorn,” she said, looking straight into his eyes. “Many would account for love as a force of good and hate as a force of evil. But good can sometimes come of hate, and evil of love – they are separate powers really, and you yourself have said. But be careful, Dunádan. Be very careful, for your hate of Sauron is strong in you, and even the best of Men are capable of great evil if they are not on their guard.”
“You speak with the wisdom of the Eldar, young Anorwen,” he said reverently. “I accept your warning, for I would be a fool not to.”
“I speak the wisdom of my elders,” she replied, “and of the darkness that crosses your face when you mention the Dark One’s name. It is a mark of the Good, I deem, that they hate the Shadow and all it stands for.”
Aragorn then asked, “What is the lineage of your sword?” She laughed shortly at the question.
“Lesser than that of Narsil, but it too is a reforged blade.” She pulled it out and Aragorn again held the beautiful weapon. “I call it the Sun-sword, and I am the first to bear it. My great-great-grandfather was a giant of a man,” she said, “and he wielded a giant sword. Few of our people could even pick it up, let alone wield it in battle. So it became one of those heirlooms that gathers dust and grime, until my brother and I were of age to go to war. Then my father had the ancient blade made into two.”
“Where did he find this unsual stone?” he asked, for the yellow gem seemed to glitter with the Sun’s own fire.
“We call them sun-stones, and they’re found in the creek beds of our vales. This was an uncommonly big and fine one that I found as a little girl. When it was first cut they thought they’d make it a necklace for me, but my mother thought this would suit me better.” Aragorn chuckled at this. “My brother’s sword bears the original blue stone the old blade had. There is no real power in our swords, no great virtue, for we have not that skill in forging, but I have loved my blade since the day I first held it, and now I mourn, for my arms have withered and I can no longer swing it. Fighting with this weapon always felt like singing.”
“That would explain why you sing when you fight then.”
“I still do that?”
“Yes, Amaril, and it is a haunting thing, to be battling Orcs and Trolls and wolves to the music of the Harachin. It drives the dark and fear away, and I imagine that the Rhûnings find it dismaying.”
“Perhaps they do,” she said thoughtfully, sheathing the blade, “but to be honest I have never asked them how they felt about it, or given them the chance to tell me.”
When Elladan and Elrohir returned that evening with news that the departing Elves knew of Amaril, having originated from Mirkwood, and were happy to bear the message to Círdan. They would reach Mithlond ere dawn the next day, “for we do not need mortal sleep,” Elladan said with a jesting grin. At this Amaril announced she would be ready to travel the next day, and would not rest until they’d passed the gates of the Havens.
“Today I saw the Sea,” she said, “and in seeing it I find strength returning. I must go on, now.”
Elrohir replied with a sorrowful smile, “Then go on you shall, and may you find refuge from the shadows on Círdan’s shores.”