Sacrifices by AiedailWing|
Warning: slightly dark theme
Reference: “…Aragorn sat with his head bowed to his knees; only Elrond knew fully what this hour meant to him…” (J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Rings, Book 1, Chapter 3, The Ring Goes South, page 295.)
“You are in deep thought, Estel?”
With a noticible flinch, Aragorn whirled around, a hand flying to the dagger belted to his side.
Erestor, who had passed by in an – for once – aimless stroll through the house, watched on in silence, but his eyes were smiling in amusement. After the Man had recovered sufficiently (and apologized profusely, which the Elf batted away), he rephrased his greeting. “What bothers you this fine morning, Estel?” He steered the other out from the porch into the garden it overlooked, and kept a hand on Aragorn’s shoulder afterwards in companionship.
“Nothing,” said the Man automatically – too quickly. Erestor snorted softly. The action tore a reluctant chuckle from the Ranger, who then told his friend that it was rather an un-Elvish thing to do by an Elf. Laughter filled the early winter air for several minutes after the childish proclamation.
The moment of levity did not stretch beyond that, unfortunately.
“Really, Estel, what bothers you so near to the departure of your company?” Erestor persisted. Aragorn shook his head, but then he sighed and relented.
“Why must there be such great feats of sacrifice to ensure a good, safe living?” he murmured, his voice torn between thoughtfulness and – oddly – innocence. “The Ring will destroy Frodo in the end, whether he succeeds in delivering it to Orodruin or not. Such a gentle soul… And I have a feeling that the other hobbits in this company will not come out unscathed, even though they do not bear the burden Frodo does. They are of such gentle and cheery nature, my friend…”
“Evil stops at nothing, Estel. You are well acquainted with how it works,” Erestor admonished, but in a placating tone. “Sacrifice must indeed be made when the situation calls for it. And although it tears at our hearts, it must be done.”
There was a hollow note in his voice, and it intrigued Aragorn. Tentatively, he said, “I am sorry, my friend. I was not aware of your sorrows and burdens, and here I spilled my own on top of yours.”
Erestor laughed, but it was not the rich, light laughter he had shared with the Ranger beforehand. It was somehow harsh and old, weary, and Aragorn flinched upon hearing such sound coming from such a beautiful being.
But no, Erestor was no longer so ethereal and pristine. His blue-grey eyes were dark with haunting memory, and his face was as taught and cold as a forbidding silver mask. Unwittingly, the Man inched away from the Elf. How had he changed so drastically in such a short time?
“In this tainted world the measure of the worth is determined by the measure of the sacrifice, son of Arathorn.” The statement came in a murmur barely audible in Aragorn’s ears. Reluctantly, he sidled back to his former place and met Erestor’s eyes squarely.
But Erestor had now switched to a Sindarin dialect lost two ages ago, and his eyes glazed over, seeing what he alone could see.
This new side of the advisor to his foster father frightened Aragorn, although he would not admit it even to himself. Erestor had always been composed even in the most dire of situations; a reticent, solitary Elf, he was nonetheless kind to people and cracked a small smile from time to time when his mood and the event allowed so. Had the impending wars against the forces of Mordor and its allies affected him deeper than anyone knew, deeper than Aragorn had previously thought? If so, Erestor had hidden it quite well; too well. And it boded ill to the currently-insecure Man.
Nevertheless, they might not have much more time to get to the bottom of this problem, so he opened his mouth, about to intrude to the Elf’s reverie.
Before he could utter anything, however, Erestor’s gaze snapped back into focus and he beat him to it, back in Westron. “You wonder, young one, why Sauron’s trinket could bring about so much destruction and devestation, why it requires a lot of sacrifice from various people to be undone, and even it is so?”
Caught off guard, Aragorn just nodded mutely.
A thin, sharp, mirthless smile as cold and poinient as a blade.
Aragorn’s shoulders hunched forwards in a defensive reflex. The Elf before him truly unnerved him. He had seen Elladan and Elrohir in cold rage during their skirmishes with the roaming bands of orcs, and even the one moment Elrond displayed fury in his lifetime, when a messenger from Mirkwood who was ignorant and insolent of Men had derided his twelve-year-old self in open view and hearing. But the cool, collected, seldom-seen second hand of the Lord of Rivendell…
“Do you love Arwen, son of Arathorn?”
The Man’s eyes widened. “Of course,” he said before he could held his tongue.
But Erestor did not seem to be affected by his hasty – though honest – declaration. He continued, “Do you realize how much Elrond and his family pay for the choice Arwen took because of her reciprocating love towards you?”
A low blow, and a hurtful one at that. But Aragorn did not dare to voice it. Neither was he willing to answer. Yet apparently Erestor did not need it, for he resumed after a moment’s pause, “She is happy. You are happy. And if the both of you are to be wed, then it means that Sauron has been defeated, the Ring undone. And from there, the realm of Men will flourish, perhaps rivaling the Elven realms of old. Is the results worth the sacrifice, Dúnadan?”
Aragorn kept his silence. Erestor persisted.
“See there, between the flower beds? Do you know why his praises are sung even until now?”
Glorfindel, and said Elf was walking towards them as if knowing – and perhaps it was so – that he was being discussed.
Aragorn nodded. The spell holding him still broken, he fidgeted restlessly on the spot, his boots creating a rustling sound with their friction against the dying grass beneath.
“Sacrifices are bitter and hard to make, Estel.” The advisor’s voice softened into a gentler tone, and Aragorn could now see the Elf he knew beneath all the accumulating pains and sorrows displayed – for once – for all to see. “However, sacrifices are what makes us all here in a way or another. Sacrifices are what buys lives, freedom, for whatever length of time, and perhaps also future happiness. We have our shares of sacrifice in this upcoming war, even you and I, so do not fret about it. Just make sure that all that everyone have done – even yourself –are not wasted. Buy us the freedom we all seek, son of Arathorn, and all the sacrifices are considered repaid by those who have given them.”
He kissed the rooted Ranger on the brow, bowed slightly from the waist with a hand on his heart, and left. In his place stood Glorfindel who, like Aragorn, stared in thought at the retreating form of the advisor. Then, at last, he turned around and regarded Aragorn with a grave smile. “Let us walk, young one,” he murmured, before gently guiding the Man away farther into the garden. “Do not trouble yourself with how Erestor acted. He needs to open up about the feelings and emotions he has kept confined in his soul so far. I am sorry that you had to witness it, however. Rest assured that he is still the person you know; only now with a new dimention to his character that you were not aware existing before.” He smiled again, just as gravely. “But all he told you was right, Estel. Heed his advice.”
Aragorn inclined his head in agreement. And he truly did heed the advice. It was what kept him from falling apart when Gandalf fell in Moria, and later when Boromir fell in Path Galan while Merry and Pippin were being kidnapped by orcs of Saruman. It was what strengthened him when he chose to walk on the Path of the Dead, and what empowered him to last the Battle of the Pellenor Fields.
And it bought them all freedom. The Ring was undone in the place of its birth. The remaining of the Fellowship was reunited again in happiness. The Elves had a safe way to the West, to the Grey Havens whence they would sail to the Undying Lands. Gondor and Arnor flourished and prospered under their new king and queen. The remnence of the evil Men and creatures were driven away or wiped off from the roads and villages they had been haunting…
The price was not cheap, but it bought well.