Warnings/Notes: This is the next part in my Echoes of Númenor series. I try to stick faithfully to Buffy canon through Season Five, and to LOTRs canon history, up to this story. After the Prologue, we're getting into AU territory. There is a major non-canon Silmarillion pairing which is part of the story, and setup for a majorly non-canon LOTRs pairing. If you don't like this, I won't be offended if you don't read.
I try to be as faithful as possible to the history, themes, and intent of Tolkien’s work. I also used the first five seasons of Buffy for references, and The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (and the Appendices), The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales, The Lays of Beleriand, and The Peoples of Middle-earth.
Though I will try to update this as much as possible, but it will be sporadic as I am focusing on my Harry Potter/Buffy fic at the moment. I just wanted to get this chapter up for those who have been waiting patiently for the next part of this series. Please see the family trees in the supplementary fanart for clarification on family members and what they look like.
Disclaimer: All BTVS characters and their canon histories are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. All LOTRs characters and their canon histories are the property of the Tolkien Estate.
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
— J.R.R. Tolkien, Strider, The Fellowship of the Ring
Prologue2931, the Third Age, the Angle, Eriador
The winter wind was howling, rattling against the western mullioned windows of the Great Hall as six of the seven men present crowded near the central fire. Winter had been an unforgiving season that year, with the snows and frosts lingering beyond their proper time, reminding the inhabitants of Middle-earth of the Fell Winter twenty years before. Too many of the Dúnedain had died that miserable year, many of the older who took their wisdom with them, and many of the younger who had not yet had the chance to live. It had been simply another reminder to the remnant of the Men of the West that life was unforgiving, and Middle-earth a cruel mistress.
Though many inhabitants of Eriador had forgotten the Lost Kingdom of Arnor, which had once stood a hundred thousand men-at-arms strong, and would not know the name were it to be spoken to them, the Dúnedain were not of that number. Within their company, the mere ten thousand who remained, the tales of Númenor and the fleeing Exiles and their nine ships, led by Elendil, stayed present in their hearts. So too did the tales of the North Kingdom, and the Kingdoms of Arthedain, Rhudaur, and Cardolan. The peoples of Rhudaur and Cardolan had all either perished, or joined the houses of their kin in Arthedain, but they still remembered. And eventually, when it was required of them, the last people of Arthedain, and the only remaining remnants of the North Kingdom, traveled east to the Angle.
The Angle was the land that the Dúnedain had settled on in the remains of the fallen kingdom of Rhudaur. The land was set between the Bruinen and Mitheithel rivers, making it a fertile planting ground, and also an easily defensible place. The only real trouble they had to be constantly looking for was from the trolls, who resided in the Trollshaws directly at the Angle’s northern border. The Dúnedain had learned this lesson in blood when, the previous year, their Chieftain had paid for his negligence with his life.
It was to the Dúnedain that these seven men in the Great Hall belonged, and it was the Dúnedain that these seven men led. All of them were descended from Elendil, the first High King, and through his son Isildur, and grandson Valandil, and down through the line of Kings of Arnor, the Kings of Arthedain, and finally the first Chieftain of the Dúnedain, Aranarth. Six of the men in the room were descended from Aranarth’s daughter, and were distaff heirs of Elendil.
The seventh man, the one who did not seek the fire, was not of the distaff line. He was of the male line of direct dissent, stretching from father to son since the time of the Exiles. And he was the reason all the men whom he called kinsmen were gathered in the chilly Hall that night. He was their Chieftain and Lord, and it was his right to detain them, though all the men present remained of their own free will. Long had the time come since they should have sought their beds in their own homes, but a heavy errand made them all crowd together for warmth and wait with nervous impatience.
Yet, even though the chill of the Hall seemed to penetrate down to their very bones, it was still a better shelter than was to be found anywhere else in the Angle. The majority of the Dúnedain lived in timber houses with thatched roofs, and only one fire in the center of the home, requiring the occupants to encircle it at nighttime in the winter. The Hall of the Chieftain, however, was not like this at all. It was the only stone building in the Angle, and it was larger than any other dwelling. It had attached housing for the Lord and his family, along with several rooms devoted to lore taken from Númenor and the remnants of the Northern Kingdom. It was the meeting place for all affairs of the Dúnedain, as well as the place where the magistrate rendered his rulings. The Hall was the most important dwelling in the Angle, and the only fixed one as the majority of the northern Dúnedain still feared the Shadow of the East and the echoes of Angmar, and were prepared to, at any moment, become a traveling people once more.
Near the fire, the six men who sat there had occasionally tried for conversation to while away the time as they waited. None of them dared to address the Chieftain, the seventh of their company, for he would do naught but pace the floor up and down, waiting, waiting, waiting. Of those seated there, three held the first blushes of youth, untried and barely past the age of twenty-five when they had reached their majority. The three others were older, more seasoned with wrinkles upon their brows, and grey in their beards, but none of the men could be called old. Men of the Dúnedain rarely reached old age any more, as ever were the servants of the Shadow at their backs.
Finally, breaking the silence, one of the older said, “This cold has settled in my lungs. I think it shall ne’er be spring again.”
“I am sure that it will warm soon, Dírhael,” another elder replied. “It would be unseasonable if we had snow much longer.”
Dírhael snorted in response. “Even if it does break soon, brother, I think floods shall plague us and we will lose what little crop we have. You would know little of the troubles of the Angle, Halmír, always coming and going as you are, but a long winter never bodes well.”
Halmír rolled his eyes. “You might concern yourself with crops, brother. I am more concerned with the Orcs and trolls once the thaw comes. The Orcs especially will be restless, having been shunted in the Misty Mountains. After the air warms and the frost melts, they shall descend on us like locusts. Am I not right, Halamon? What do you think, brother?”
Their third brother, the second born and always torn between the elder and younger, tilted his head in agreement. Halamon then said, “They shall certainly look to strike back in force. It has been too quiet lately. For several years now we have been on the verge of something; I can feel it in my heart. They wait for some mischievous purpose, but I think not for long. There is no true patience in an Orc, and so we can only conclude that something holds them back. Only like a dam, they shall soon burst forth and flood the unprepared valley.”
“I agree, Uncle,” one of the three younger men said. “We should send out patrols as soon as maybe.”
“You are foolish, my son,” Dírhael said, addressing the golden-haired youth. “You would do much better to stay in the Angle and help with the planting, not following after your uncles in their damn fool missions, Dírlond.”
“I am a Ranger at heart, Atarinya
,” his son Dírlond replied. “I can be naught else.”
“And what about you both, my sons?” Halamon asked, turning to the two other young men. “Do you sit so quietly while your cousin urges our departure?”
“Father, we are at your command. I know that Halsereg and I will both answer the call when you tell us we are to leave to defend our people,” the elder of the two said.
“That is well said, Halbarad,” Halmír, his uncle, said. “Though I think you should let your brother speak for himself. I do not think he likes to be a Ranger as you do.”
“Nonsense,” Halamon declared. “Both my sons are Rangers and into the saddle born. Neither of them would stay behind here with the women while we travel in the wilds.” Turning to his younger son, Halsereg, he asked, “Is this not right?”
“Of course, Father,” Halsereg answered quietly. “I could not stay when you, my uncle, my cousin, and my brother depart.”
“Oh, stop bullying him, brother,” Dírhael said. “You both have already turned my son into a Ranger and a wild thing, which must please you; it is not necessary for both your sons, Halamon, to be Orc hunters.”
“You know,” Halmír commented idly, “when I return from the wilds, it rarely takes more than an evening in my brothers’ company, and that of their sons, to be reminded why I am a bachelor.”
The younger generation laughed, while his two brothers looked at him askance.
“You should have married,” Dírhael said seriously. “The blood of Westernesse dwindles continuously, and our people are few. It is your responsibility as our father’s firstborn to marry and perpetuate our bloodline.”
Though he often tended to be contrary, Dírhael’s words were true enough. Halmír, Halamon, and Dírhael were the sons of Gilbarad, and of the only line left of Aranarth’s daughter. Halmír was the firstborn, and should have been the first to marry and produce children, but his heart had always belonged to the wild. He rarely tarried in the Angle among his people if he could help it, much preferring the cold ground to a straw bed.
His younger brothers, Halamon and Dírhael, had both done their duty and produced two children each. Halamon had married a common woman, called Seregaina, and produced two sons, Halbarad and Halsereg. Dírhael had married the Lady Ivorwen, and produced a son and a daughter, Dírlond and Gilraen.
Gilraen, new wife of the Chieftain, and the very reason the seven men were assembled that night.
Though the descendants of Aranarth’s daughter were merely a distaff line, their importance among the Dúnedain was not due to their birth, but to the service they had always rendered their Chieftains. Halmír was the Chieftain’s Second, and auxiliary leader of the Rangers, and always kept company with the Lord of the Dúnedain when he departed from the safety of his people. Halamon was in charge of training the new Rangers as they joined up, and his two sons and nephew were among the current batch of men he was leading. Dírhael, on the other hand, was much in charge of life among the settled peoples of the Angle. He served as magistrate and Master of the Moot, and was well regarded among the Dúnedain.
But all of the descendants of Aranarth, whatever their employment, were first and foremost defenders of their Chieftains and those of their line. Even more so now.
“Oh, will it ever be over,” Halbarad murmured quietly.
“Hush, my son,” Halamon said, looking nervously from his son to their Chieftain who never ceased in his pacing. “You would not wish your cousin ill, I think.”
,” Halbarad said. “But it has already been a day. Does this bode well?”
“Aye,” Halsereg agreed, turning to Dírhael. “Uncle, can you not summon my Aunt, and find out if our cousin is in danger? Has the time come to worry?”
Dírhael turned his head and looked steadily into the fire. “If something goes wrong, nephew, I would not summon Ivorwen from our daughter’s side. This is women’s business, and the last thing she needs is for me to interfere and distract her.”
“My sister will be well,” Dírlond suddenly said. “She is strong. There is naught much which can deter her for long.”
“None of us can know whether my daughter will be well,” Dírhael admonished his son softly. “We shall simply have to trust in the One, and the Valar, that she will be.”
“It bodes ill; do you not think,” Halsereg asked quietly, “that my cousin should be brought to bed two weeks early and in the midst of winter?”
“I do not take it so,” his uncle Halmír said. “These things happen when they will happen, and to look for portents where there might be none often leads to trouble.”
“But what if—”
All six men near the fire turned in surprise. Their Lord, and kinsman, had ceased pacing and was looking in their direction. “I would not hear any more,” the Chieftain said. “You compound my worries, and it is obvious that you have all been idle for too long. Let there be no more talk of any theme that is not fair. Morning comes soon, and it is now the first day of Gwaeron
, and that
is a good omen, this I know.”
As if in answer to his words, at that moment there was a movement on the stairs and all seven men turned to the far side of the Hall where they saw a woman descending from the rooms above. It was Ivorwen, wife of Dírhael and mother of Gilraen and Dírlond, and she was smiling broadly and carrying a bundle in her arms.
The men near the fire stood suddenly, their eyes full of excitement, mixed with worry and hope. They all turned to look at the Chieftain, who seemed to have a peculiar expression upon his visage.
His face was visible to all his kinsmen, and it seemed to many of them as though he was suffused with awe. He stared, almost hungrily at the burden Ivorwen carried, but waited silently and patiently for her to approach him. As she drew closer, he slowly backed up towards the central fire, so the sole source of warmth of the room was provided to her and that precious bundle which she carried.
She stopped before her Chieftain and son-in-law at length, bowing to him and smiling. “The Lady of the Dúnedain commends herself to her husband and lord. She bids me tell you that she has born a son. The old wife who attended your lady declared him strong and sound of limb. Shall he be claimed?”
Ivorwen then placed the baby in her arms upon the floor, the woven rushes crunching slightly as she did so. She then smiled at her husband Dírhael and went to stand by his side, squeezing his hand in greeting. Nodding at her brothers, nephews, and son, she stood patiently, waiting for a decision to be made and their Chieftain and kinsman to act.
The Chieftain reached down and lifted the infant into his arms, smiling as he did so. He then unbound the baby’s swaddling, checking, as was tradition, the baby’s fitness and sex. After a long moment, in which he seemed happily lost in the joy of holding a son, he finally pronounced, “Kinsmen, my wife has given me a son. He shall be my heir, and one day your future Lord and Chieftain when I am gone.”
All the men smiled then, and relaxed, proclaiming the old phrases of good fortune and best wishes. They all then relaxed, happy to receive good reports from Ivorwen, her mother.
“Gilraen is very well,” Ivorwen said. “She was strong and endured patiently. The babe shall not be possessed with fear, for never once did she cry out.”
“My sister is strong,” Dírlond cried, “and any boy born of her body shall be as like to a mighty and revered king.”
The men laughed and celebrated, while their Lord watched them with a smile, his gaze mostly fixed on his son. Eventually, Dírhael, the Lord’s father by marriage, walked over and looked down at the baby boy who was slumbering in his Chieftain’s arms.
“What are you going to call him?” his father-in-law asked.
All of the kinsmen suddenly quieted, eager to know the answer. The baby’s naming day would not come for another nine days, but as they were all kin they could know his name before it was formally announced without breaking tradition.
The Chieftain looked at the faces of his blood and married family, and smiled.
Arathorn, son of Arador, looked down at the baby in his arms and knew that his son was meant for greatness. His name would be remembered, long after he was gone from Middle-earth, so the name should be a good one. Giving it some consideration, as he had not allowed himself to do before so as not to curse his wife’s pregnancy, he thought of his mighty forbearers and then smiled. Just as he was named for an ancestor, so should his son be. And looking down at the tiny baby, a flash of foresight entered Arathorn’s mind, and he knew that one day a crown, one other than the Elendilmir, would adorn his son’s head.
“I think, brother, you had the right of it,” Arathorn said, grinning at Dírlond. “He shall be a Revered King indeed, called Aragorn, the second of that name.”
As soon as the words were spoken, the wind outside died down and within the hour, dawn began creeping over the horizon. Those of the Great Hall could not know it, but the winter snows would trouble them no more that year.
Spring had come to Middle-earth.~*~2932, the Third Age, the Angle, Eriador
The summer sun was blazing overhead, making life for all near unbearable, but the family of the Chieftain had some relief from its rays under the shades of the trees in their garden. When the Dúnedain had resettled Rhudaur, the foundations of the Great Hall had been put down upon the ruins of where a great fortress had once stood. The foundation stones had therefore been reused, but nothing remained that would give tell to what Angabarad had truly looked like. The only remnant of that once mighty fortress was a sunken garden, which had been restored and faithfully tended by all the ladies of the Chieftain’s house in the years to follow, until it had reached its current splendor.
It was a favorite place of the current lady, and she often took her sewing there in the mornings when it was cool. Gilraen loved being surrounded by things that grew, some throwback to her ancient elven ancestry, and it was a pleasure to be mistress of such a place. Her mother-in-law, Alpharien, and her barely toddling son Aragorn, often accompanied her.
They had done just that today, but they were also joined that day by her husband who had recently returned from a hunting trip with the twin sons of Elrond. It was the plan for another such trip in the near future to which the Lady of the Dúnedain was then entreating her husband against.
“I wish you would not go,” Gilraen said firmly. “My uncles lead the Rangers well; you are needed here among your people.”
“My people only live here in peace and safety, including you and my son,” her husband Arathorn answered, “because I make these expeditions.”
“Your father only died two years ago, senya
,” Alpharien said quietly, for she was a timid woman who cared not for strife. “No man would think it odd if you chose to be about your duties here in the Angle until your children were grown, and left the cares of defense to your kinsmen.”
, I would not think well of such a man who let others guard him while he slept peacefully in his bed, and never fought in the cause of his own defense. I would not follow him, and I would not bid my men to either,” Arathorn said sternly.
The Chieftain of the Dúnedain was a somber man, who took little joy from the world, except that which he found in his wife and son. Though he dearly loved his mother, he had little patience for what he saw as her female weaknesses. Gilraen was, in many ways, his mother’s opposite. She was fair in face and form, while his mother was plain in face and of a dark coloring. Gilraen was also quick to anger and joy and sorrow, her moods evident of her mercurial spirit, in deep contrast to Alpharien, who had a placid nature.
When Arathorn had first seen Gilraen after long years in the wilds, it had been like seeing a star shoot across the heavens. She was called Gilraen the Fair by their people, and Arathorn could not possibly think of a name more apt. Her hair was as bright as the sun—a remnant of long passed royal Númenórean ancestors and a grandmother who hailed from the peoples of the Rohirrim—and she had bright eyes which had caught his mischievously. Within moments of seeing her, Arathorn knew she must be his wife, and had gone to her father before a sen'night had passed, ignoring the fact that Gilraen had not yet reached the age when she might be a bride.
The Chieftain of the Dúnedain had not regretted it, not once, and now that she had given him a son, her husband was even better pleased that his eye had fallen upon her. It was for this reason that Arathorn did not stir to anger when she entreated him, as she did that day.
“I do not like that these sons of Elrond urge the men towards skirmishes,” she said, looking at him. “Protect our borders they must do, and give aide to all those who live in Eriador, but why seek such evil out?”
“Gilraen,” her husband said patiently. “They lost their mother to the evils of Orcs; they have cause to ride forth and seek them out.”
“They did not lose her at all,” Gilraen scoffed. “She waits for them across the Sundering Seas in Valinor. Yet, I think, should you be felled by Orcs, as the Lady Celebrían’s party was, there will be no healing across the sea for you, my husband.”
“Aragorn,” the Lord of the Dúnedain called out then, for his son was toddling farther and farther away from the blanket on which his family sat. “Come back, my son.”
The toddler walked back towards his parents with a bright smile on his face, happy to be immediately swept up in strong arms when he reached his father. “Atto
!” he cried, speaking one of the only two words he knew.
Arathorn kissed his son’s head, looking over the top of it at his wife. “I should not ever choose to leave you, my love, but I would not be able to be with you now in good conscience if I did not do my all to ensure that the threats to our people and the remains of the Northern Kingdom were fought with all the strength I can muster.” He then smiled at her. “All will be well, you’ll see. I intend to live to see my son a man, and to eventually bounce grandchildren on my knee.”
Gilraen said no more on the subject, but in watching her husband with her son, she couldn’t help but feel as though such a sight was to be remembered, for it belonged to a fleeting season.~*~2933, the Third Age, the Angle, Eriador
The leaves of autumn were just starting to descend, when word reached the Angle of the decimation of the riding party of Rangers. Of the force of twenty men who had gone out hunting Orcs along with the Chieftain’s host, led by the sons of Elrond from Rivendell, only five now returned. The rest had all perished, taking with them many of the young men who had been in training to be Rangers, and ripping another generation of fighting men from the Angle. Of the returned came Halamon, and his sons Halbarad and Halsereg.
Arathorn the Chieftain, Halmír his uncle by marriage, and Dírlond his wife’s brother also returned with the living Dúnedain, but they returned wrapped in funeral shrouds.
In this one incursion, the Lady Gilraen had lost her uncle, her brother, and her husband.
The Dúnedain lined the fields and streets of the Angle as the procession came down from the North. The men of Westernesse had lost now three Chieftains in the last twenty years, so this horrible sight was becoming all too familiar. They were bereft of leadership once more.
When the procession reached the dwelling of the Chieftain, the body of Arathorn was laid out in state, as it would remain for three days before burial. Gilraen watched the proceedings in silence, clutching her two-year-old son to her chest. She tried not to think of the days to come; the days in which her husband would be laid on a bier and interred beneath a burial mound. With him would go his sword and shield, and the standard of his house.
After the rights were done, the Lady took her son and departed for her sunken garden. Setting Aragorn on the ground, she allowed him to run in the sunlight. He was too young to understand the gravity of what had passed, and it did her good to watch his happiness, though she could feel none of it herself.
Gilraen turned to see her father Dírhael, and her Uncle Halamon. She said to them, “You both look as though you have a heavy errand, though I cannot think what you would say to me as the worst of my fears has already been realized.”
“Daughter,” Dírhael said softly. “Your uncle and I need to acquaint you with what shall happen next, as we have made several decisions as to your fate, and that of your son.”
“Do such decisions fall to you, Atarinya
?” Gilraen asked quietly. “I do not mean to be disrespectful, Father, but I am no longer of your house.”
“Your fate does not fall to us through kinship, niece,” Halamon said softly, “but rather as we are members of the Ruling Council. We have spoken with the other members, Galtaur, Culdraug, and Anganim. They are, of course, all that remains of the Council as…”
“As my husband and Uncle Halmír are now dead,” Gilraen said firmly. “Come, Uncle; do not couch your meanings behind pretty terms with me.”
“It is the Council’s responsibility to maintain the house of Valandil if those of the direct line are not yet of age, as such your son’s fate lies in our hands,” Dírhael cut in, his voice emotional.
“I see,” Gilraen said, looking at her son who was chasing a butterfly in the shade of an oak tree. He was a beautiful boy, and was quickly growing into a sturdy and healthy child. So much of her husband could be seen in his face, but Gilraen fancied than her son had a truly Númenórean appearance, and seemed to echo his ancestors more firmly than her husband had.
“My lady,” her Uncle Halamon said softly, drawing her from her reverie. “We have to protect the Chieftain.”
Gilraen laughed bitterly, turning to her uncle swiftly. “I think my husband is long past the need for your protection, and as he is no longer living, you failed in your charge quite spectacularly.”
“Daughter,” Dírhael said softly. “He wasn’t referring to your late husband.”
She started in shock for a moment, and turned to look at her son with dawning comprehension. It came upon her then, the knowledge that her son could not truly be called a mere boy anymore. Nor could he be called an heir to his father. He now was the Dúnadan, and the people would look to him, barely out of babyhood or not.
“What must I do?” she asked softly.
“My Lady Gilraen,” Halamon replied, “By decision of the ruling Council, we make for Rivendell.”