I will lift up mine eyes
"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber." Psalm 121- 1-3
A series of events after his return from Gondor leaves Aragorn's spirits at an all time low.
A/n – One line is quoted directly from Tolkien. Written for the Teitho "Sky" Challenge where it was unplaced.
Aragorn had been so filled with hope when he had arrived at Rivendell last week under a cloudless blue sky. That was before he had spoken to Elrond. Now his foster father's words felt seared into his very soul. "She shall not be the bride of any Man less than the King of both Gondor and Arnor."
He supposed he could proclaim himself King of Arnor, empty though the title would be, but King of Gondor? He laughed mirthlessly. Denethor would more willingly concede that title to his stable boy than to the man he had known as Captain Thorongil! His hope of making Arwen his bride seemed no nearer now than at the first moment he had espied her beneath the birches.
His mother's reaction had been just as distressing. "Alas!" Gilraen had cried. "I shall never hold my grandchild in my arms and the line of Isildur is doomed! For generations, many have fought and died to protect our lineage while you would cast it away on a whim!"
"Do you not like Lady Arwen?" was the only, albeit somewhat foolish response he could think of in the face of her fury.
"She is the fairest of ladies, noble and gracious. I like her well. Do you not see, though, my son, you aspire too high? Master Elrond's daughter is not for a mortal man. You have met fair women aplenty in the Angle and surely their were maidens in abundance in Gondor, or even in Rohan? Why could you not have offered your heart to one of those? By now you would have been wed with a fine brood of children to carry on our line."
"I met many fair maidens on my travels, mother, but I could never love them as I love Arwen."
Gilraen sighed. "Young people nowadays think too much of romance. True love often comes after marriage. Forget Master Elrond's daughter and look for a suitable maiden amongst your own people."
"I am sorry, mother, but I have given my pledge to Arwen. I will wed no other."
Then Gilraen had wept and there was nothing that Aragorn could do to comfort her.
That had been several days ago. Now even the weather seemed to reflect Aragorn's heavy heart. Dark clouds rolled across the sky, threatening heavy rain or even early snow. The autumn blooms in the gardens when Aragorn was walking that had been so bright when arrived, now looked faded and sad.
The sound of footsteps started him out of his melancholy thoughts. He spun round to see Halbarad hastening towards him. His kinsman looked travel stained and his cloak was streaked with blood.
"Halbarad! Are you injured?"
"I am well, but I bring grave tidings." Halbarad grasped Aragorn's hand in greeting. He was breathing heavily and struggled to get out the words. "Orcs have attacked our village. We managed to get the women and children to a safe hiding place but many good men were slain. We were heavily outnumbered."
Aragorn's heart sank. He had passed through the village less than a week ago. He could have stayed, but had been so eager to get to Rivendell that he had hardly paused long enough to greet his fellow Rangers."
"I should have been there."
"What difference would it have made? You have been absent these many years."
Halbarad's tone was weary and expressionless, but the simple words pierced Aragorn's conscience as keenly as a blade. "Were you able to slay the vile creatures?" he asked.
Halbarad shook his head wearily. "Most of them fled into the mountains. We did not have enough men to pursue them."
"I shall go after them and avenge our kinsmen."
Halbarad held up his hand in protest. "You would be one against many and the trail will be cold by now."
"My skills with sword and bow have improved these past years as have my tracking skills. I have neglected our people too long. Now maybe can play the part I should."
"Kinsman, this is madness!"
If Halbarad made further protests Aragorn did not hear them. He hurried to his chamber and took off the fine garments he wore in Master Elrond's house, replacing them with Ranger garb. He took up his weapons, bade his mother a hasty farewell and rode off into the Misty Mountains.
The Orcs were long gone, if indeed they had ever been this way. Aragorn searched for days but could find no trace of them. His heart grew heavier with every hour that passed. It seemed he could not even slay a few of the foul creatures to avenge his people. As he climbed higher, he had to leave his horse behind him and proceed on foot. A thick wet mist veiled the sky and shrouded him. He realised with a start that he was actually walking through a cloud. As darkness fell, he could not even see the path in front of him. He trod on a jagged stone and stumbled, twisting his ankle as he fell.
He got to his feet, but could only limp along painfully slowly. He could go no further. The path was far treacherous in the darkness on his unsteady feet. His clothes were drenched and sticking uncomfortably to his skin. He knew he needed to get warm and dry, but there was no shelter here on the mountainside and he could not walk to find a sheltering rocky outcrop or cave. He tried to keep stumbling forward until exhaustion overcame him and he sank to his knees. What a fool he had been, coming up here alone and unprepared like some raw recruit! Now he would pay for his folly with his life. As he sank into oblivion a feeling of peace washed over him. Maybe it was all for the best. Arwen would sail with her father when Master Elrond departed Middle-earth while Halbarad would lead his people and be a far better Chieftain than he had ever been. His mother would weep, but she had already been without him for many long years while he had sought to prove himself in distant lands. Aragorn closed his eyes and knew no more.
Aragorn was warm, so comfortably warm and surrounded by something softer than his goosedown quilt at Rivendell. Was this death? Was he beyond the circles of the world? His ankle throbbed painfully and his mouth was dry which led him to conclude that he must still be alive. He opened his eyes and gazed upwards into a cloudless blue sky. He looked around him and realised he was enfolded in the wings of a giant bird- a great eagle! The bird turned its head towards him and regarded him with piercing yellow eyes.
"So you are awake at last. little man chick," it said. "I thought you would sleep the day away."
Aragorn gasped. The bird had the power of speech. "What happened?" he stammered. He now noticed he was no longer on the mountain path, but instead in a sloping grassy meadow beside a rippling stream.
"Drink!" commanded the bird.
Aragorn found himself gently released from his feathery confines. He cupped his hands in the water and drank. It tasted clear and sweet. Feeling much refreshed, he regarded the eagle with a mixture of awe and curiosity. "Where am I?" he asked.
"I found you half frozen near the summit," said the eagle. "My kind rarely interfere with your kind, but my King said you were important so I brought you down the mountain and warmed you like an eaglet as you were half frozen."
"King? Who might your king be? I am of the line of kings, descended from Elendil himself."
"The King I serve is greater by far than Elendil."
Aragorn tried to remember what he had been told by Gandalf many years ago about the Great Eagles. Then realisation dawned upon him. "You serve Lord Manwë, the King of the Valar!" he exclaimed.
"Indeed I do," The eagle's breast swelled with pride. "He himself bade me bring you down the mountainside.
"You have seen him?" Aragorn's brain was reeling. Surely he must be dreaming? He was conversing with a giant bird who was telling him that the Lord of the Valar was concerned for his welfare. Well he knew the old tales, but even though he had heard them from the Wise, they had always seemed remote and distant, memories of an Age long gone.
"Of course I have seen him, foolish young chick! He bade me tell you not to lose hope as the Powers, even the One, have formed you for a high destiny. Stay but on the right path, Aragorn son of Arathorn, and King of Men you will be. Long will you be revered in the eyes of all the Free Peoples. Now, I must rejoin my aerie. You will be well now, little man chick, your horse is nearby. Farewell!" With that, the eagle flapped its great wings and soared aloft.
Aragorn raised his eyes skywards until the great bird disappeared from view into the clouds above the mountain peaks. The darkness had left his soul and he was filled with hope. He had a high destiny ahead of him, even as Master Elrond had long ago foretold. One day he would be able to make Arwen his bride.
He heard a whinny of greeting. He tore his eyes away from the heavens and saw his horse galloping towards him. Stumbling to his feet, he grasped the steed's mane and managed to mount. The horse waited patiently for him to indicate which way they should go.
There was only one choice. He must return to Rivendell and confess the failure of his mission to his kinsman, and be reconciled with his mother and Master Elrond, then return to the Angle with Halbarad and continue the fight against the darkness until it was utterly defeated.
For today, though, he would ride under a clear blue sky, his heart filled with peace.