Aragon wakes to the feeling of wet grass touching his skin, brushing against his face becoming aware of the smell of fresh morning mist in his nose. Thus far Aragorn would've thought nothing of it, except that he slept to deep for his likening while being outside in the cold. Then a hand touched his shoulder, strong and unyielding. Aragorn swirls around, using the momentum to push the hand away. In less than three heartbeats he's on his feet, hand at his sword.
He freezes when he sees a tall elf, looking at him with wonder. Aragorn dares to breath out a little. He had know it was one of the Eldar as soon as he came in contact with the other Elf. After a lifetime spend among their kind Aragorn has gotten rather good at distinguishing their fëa. Though he has concentrate or know them very well in order to tell who they are.
This one is is unfamiliar to Aragorn. There aren't many Eldar left who possess red hair. Suspicious Aragorn narrows his eyebrows, studying the stranger. He might not know him personally but his features look familiar.
"Mae govannen, traveler," the stranger says and Aragorn relaxes. "I didn't wish to startle you. I was merely concerned. We live in dark times and it's not safe to sleep in the open, no matter how well concealed you're."
"You have my gratitude," Aragorn pulls himself to full height and greets the elf properly, switching to Sindarin since the Westron the Eldar is speaking is understandable yet heavily accented. "I must have fallen into a deeper slumber than I intended. Perhaps exhaustion was the cause of it. So I'm glad it was one of your folk to find me and not a servant of the enemy."
The Elf relaxes though it's only visible to Aragorn's trained eye. He must've worked with the Edain before since the elf tries not to tower above him. Aragorn's eyes meet the gaze of the Eldar entirely unafraid. He isn't sure how but the elf reminds him of Glorfindel for he spots the light of the two trees in his eyes.
He must be truly one of the Eldar, Aragorn muses, A Noldor according to the features and the grey color of his eyes.
"I'm Estel." Aragorn chooses his name. Since he's learned that directness and honesty works best for among the Eldar, he adds, "It's just one of the names I bear and you may ask for them in case you doubt my intentions and wish to verify my identity. Yet this is the one I'm most familiar with since my father gave it to me when he first laid eyes upon me."
Now the red-haired elf smiles. "While I've no children on my own, I had the fortune to witness such an event like the birth of a newborn a few times myself. I can understand why your father choose this particular name for you, Estel."
Even before the Elf opens his mouth to announce his own name, Aragorn's heart begins to beat faster. All of the Dúnedain are born with the gift, thanks to their mixed blood and Aragorn has honed his abilities through the exposure to so many Eldar around him when he grew up in Imladris. According to Elrond he's unique in the entire history of Arda. Apparently never before an Adan has been loved so much by an Elf that the Elf shared his strength and his spirit with a mortal - just like he'd have with an elvish child. Had Aragorn not grown so close to his brothers and learned the Arts of Healing from Elrond, he might've never been aware of it.
But whatever bond connected them, perhaps it was just Aragorn's trained eye for details, it allowed the Dúnedain to see beyond the surface and notice what he missed before. The unusual red-hair, hints of another language bleeding into the Sindarin, a spirit only few in Imladris still possessed ... Aragorn's eyes widened at the impossibility in front of his eyes.
He know the person who stands before him.
"I've been given names over the long course of my life, Estel," the red-haired elf tells him, "But in the spirit of what you shared with me I offer you the name I received from my own father. I'm..."
"... Nelyafinwë," Aragorn finishes. His eyes are filled with wonder, taking in the Elf in front of him again, seeing him in a new light. And since Elrond and Erestor taught him well, Aragorn slips into flawless Quenya, "You're Nelyafinwë, Son of Fëanáro and High Prince of the Noldor. Former Highking and Morgoth Bauglir's most feared enemy."
Maedhros raises his eyebrows. Such statement was unexpected form an Adan who had been clearly taught by someone who was well adversed in lore. Not many of the race of men could make such claim, simply due to the times they lived in. Most curious wasn't even the fascination in the young man's eyes, the Edain tended to judge less and view events like the Kinslaying of Alqualondë quite differently. No, it's rather the admirable quality of his skills in Quenya which surprised Maedhros the most. Most Edain learned only Sindarin, not bothering beyond what they needed in their short lives. Even among the Eldar very few bothered with the language of the Noldor if they had not parents who insisted on passing on their heritage.
Just as Maedhros intends to ask the young man what House he comes from he's surprised again.
"You should be dead," Estel whispers, eyes travelling up and down Maedhros form. "Three Ages of the World passed since your end and now you stand before me, alive. Tell me, Son of Fëanáro, is the world finally healing that the Valar saw it fit to reembody you?"
For someone who remembers endless debates with overbearing cousins, tireless brother's arguing endless about right and wrong and lectures from his father Maedhros finds himself at loss what say. He sees the truth in the Adan's heart and finds it incomparable to anything what he has known of Arda so far.
"You speak of strange tales, Estel, and yet I can see no falsehood in your eyes," Maedhros slowly says.
There's also something familiar in Estel's features, a likeness to the Noldor he hasn't seen in any of the Edain so far.
"We don't share a meal and try to solve this mystery after our stomaches are no longer empty?" Maedhros offers.
Strange as it is he can't hide a smile while he extents his hand as it the custom among the Second born. Whoever this Adan might be, he's not a servant of the enemy and friendly towards him. Beyond these two facts Maedhros doesn't care if Estel speaks the truth or not.
"I'll gladly take you up on your offer," Estel replies and surprises Maedhros by not shaking his hand but wrapping his fingers around the wrist.
Delighted to have met such a open minded person who's light shines through his eyes Maedhros returns the gesture. He's taken by the Adan who extends his mind in a way the Secondborn aren't supposed to be capable of and what Maedhros senses beneath the surface makes him smile even more. It's a strange feeling after so many years of war and loss.
They eat together in silence. It's not the richest meal what they've ever eaten, just dried fruits, a little cheese and a bit of bread but they are thankful for what they have. Both of them are familiar with hunger especially in the recent years. The shadow was growing and rations scarce sometimes especially in the wild where you had to hunt alone to stay undetected. Maedhros offers Estel his wine because he can't trust the water from the rivers anymore. Morgoth poisoned the land further and further in the last months and he doesn't wish to test the Adan's ability to withstand it. What surprises him a little is how Estel savours each bite. He looks like a man, who knows what hunger is, how has made do with bare necessities. But given how Estel moves with the silence of an Elf, careful not to draw attention to himself, Maedhros' guess is that not due to the lack of food among his brethren. No, rather he appears as someone who's used to the wildness and takes whatever it provides him.
Finally it's Estel, who breaks the silence between them.
"You can't hide your curiosity from me, Prince Nelyafinwë. You might as well go and ask head," the Adan says, showing his amusement with a smile. It's been a while ever since someone looked at Maedhros like that.
Maedhros narrows his eyebrows. Just because this encounter has been pleasant and wondrous, it doesn't mean that the Adan couldn't be dangerous as well.
"You knew my name," Maedhros begins to list the oddities. "While that's not uncommon, you know all of them and you are capable of pronouncing them in flawless Quenya. A language that has been banned for centuries. There aren't many Elves left capable of speaking it, let alone willing to teach it and I've never heard of a man who went through the trouble."
"I grew up in an Elven settlement," Estel answers. His smile goes from fond to wistful, when he says, "My teachers were mostly Noldor and all old enough to know the language. They thought it would be wise for me to learn it."
The Fëanorian files the information away despite how little sense it makes. There aren't many Elven settlements left. Most keep to heading east beyond the Blue Mountains. Even the Avari are slowly realizing that the war between the Valar and Morgoth isn't going to safe their homeland. By now Maedhros and his warriors are one of the few people left who still live in Beleriand.
"You speak the truth. I can see this well enough. But in a manner that's familiar to my kin, you left out a significant portion in your answer, Estel." Maedhros' gaze sharpens again. The weight of his sword is a comfort in these dark dangerous days. "And I have not forgotten that you have spoken of my death. Have you seen it? Or perhaps tasked to carry out the deed?"
Maedhros watches how Estel chews on an apple, obviously considering carefully what he should say.
"It may sound strange to you, but I live in a time where you're ancient history, Prince Nelyafinwë." Aragorn chooses to say the truth, because lying to the Elf, who raised Elrond and Elros, seems wrong. Besides Maedhros deserves better. He's a person, who inspired him from early childhood. No matter how dark the hour, remembering the name of Maedhros Fëanorian always grave him strength. "Perhaps this is just a dream, send by Irmo? For I can't explain how else it's possible for you to be here."
To his surprise Maedhros smiles. A strange gesture, since the hard lines and the scars on his face seem to prevent it.
"Perhaps is it possible to be dreaming and be a dream at the same time?" Maedhros muses, while a strange feeling kindles in his heart. "For the thought that're will survive enough of the Eldar and the Edain to be friends in the first place is a hopeful one. In such dark times, where Morgoth controls entire Beleriand, hope is a rare currency and I thank you for providing me at least a spark."
Aragorn looks surprised, before he laughs. It's an open, honest sound, which wakes a lot of memories in Maedhros. Memories of better times.
"My father said he named for a reason," Aragorn says wistful. "Not only, because I'm meant to be a hope for my people, but because I brought light back into his life as well. I don't know what I've done to deserve such praise, yet if I can lift weight of your shoulders I'll do it gladly."
The words kindle a spark in Maedhros' heart. It's been a long time since he faced such kindness. But he suspects that Estel treats everyone in such a way. As equal and without any hint of judgement in his eyes.
"Your words mean a lot to me, Estel," Maedhros speaks and he can't keep his emotions quite in check. "My time in this world is ending, I can feel the end drawing closer. But wherever my fëa will go, when I finally die, I'll remember your words."
Estel looks as if he wishes to protest and it warms Maedhros' soul that there's at least one person besides his brother, who doesn't wish him to die.
"Have no fear, young one. For my aching body death will be a kindness. I'll join my family and can leave this war torn world behind," Maedhros hums quietly to comfort Estel. "Go to sleep now, I'm confident that you'll wake right where you laid down yesterday."
Aragorn nods. He feels the exhaustion taking over, which has taken hold of him during the last few days and which he hasn't been able to shake of. But when he closes his eyes, sleep comes fast and dreamless. Perhaps it's the knowledge that an ancient spirit is watching over him. A calloused hand strokes his head, accompanied by a quiet song, which sounds familiar to Aragorn.
Just before he's entirely gone, Aragorn mumbles, "Morgoth will fall, I promise. You'll live to witness his demise."
Aragorn falls into darkness and gentle hands of a god take him away. In the morning he's finds himself wrapped in his cloak, alone. Somewhere in the former kingdom of Arnor, surrounded by ruins and wilderness. He wakes up refreshed and with higher spirits. Gone are the doubts he went to sleep his, his fears of failing and losing everything he holds dear to the rising shadow in the east. When Aragorn heads south, intend to make it to Rivendell before the week his out, he wonders what he dreamed about last night. The images are done already, but whatever it was, he doesn't feel so bloody lonely anymore.