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Under Elbereth's Stars by Linda Hoyland

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Under Elbereth's Stars

B2MeM Challenge AspectsOfAragorn1- Strider; Weather1- sleet ; Love1 – Unrequited Love; CanonCouples1- Manwe/Varda, Beasts1- Crane

Format: Ficlet

Genre: general

Rating: PG

Warnings: none

Characters: Aragorn, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin

Pairings: none

Summary: Aragorn and the Hobbits travel towards Rivendell.

These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

Strider and three of the four Hobbits trudged wearily onwards. Sitting astride Bill, Frodo struggled to remain awake. The numbness in his shoulder from the Nazgûl knife wound seemed to grow and spread with every hour that passed. He now feared to sleep, lest he fall into dark dreams from which there was no awakening.

"How do you feel, Mister Frodo?" asked Sam, who was never far from his side.

"Cold and weary," said Frodo.

"It is uncommon cold for October," said Sam. "It's a lazy wind that comes from the North East as my old gaffer says. It goes right through you instead of going round you."

"You are further North than you have been before, I imagine," said Strider. "The Shire is very sheltered from the cold, compared to this wilderness."

"We've already seen more things than we ever dreamed of," said Pippin.

"Or had nightmares about," Merry added.

"I feel so tired," said Frodo.

"Look at those cranes flying overhead!" cried Strider, seeking to distract the ailing Hobbit.

Four pairs of eyes looked upwards.

"I thought they were herons," said Sam. "My old gaffer says they used to steal fish from Mister Bilbo's pond."

"Those would most likely be herons, Sam," said Strider. "But these are certainly cranes. See how they fly with their necks outstretched, a heron flies with its neck pulled back. They will be flying south for winter."

"What a lot you know about birds and beasts, Mr Strider," said Sam.

"I would not be a very good Ranger if I did not," said Strider, giving Sam one of his rare smiles, which lit up his grim features. "Many years ago I recall being in a cove on the beach where there was an enormous flock of cranes feeding on the fish in the rock pools. They are remarkable birds and many lands revere them and tell stories about them. They dance to attract their mates."

"You've seen the sea, Strider?" Frodo roused himself to ask the question. "What is it like?"

"Vast, beautiful and forever changing," the Ranger replied.

"I should like to see it one day," said Frodo.

"Maybe you will," said Strider. "You have already travelled further than most of your folk do."

As it began to grow dark, clouds blew in from the North. The Hobbits pulled their hoods more closely about their faces."

"Bother, it's raining now!" Pippin exclaimed. "Such cold rain too!"

"It feels like sleet," said Merry. "But surely not in October?"

"Hail and sleet are commonplace at this time of year in the wilds," said Strider. "We must find shelter before dark." He looked around him and selected a spot, sheltered from the wind by a copse of stunted trees. "This will have to do," he said." We can go no further today."

The Hobbits thankfully unloaded their packs and prepared a camp for the night. Sam tried his utmost to make Frodo comfortable, selecting the most sheltered spot for his master to sit.

"Can you tell us a story, Mr Strider, please?" asked Sam once they were sitting around the campfire. "It might cheer up Mister Frodo."

"Very well," said Strider. He took out his pipe and lit it. "What do you wish me to tell you about?"

"I should like to hear of Lady Elbereth," said Frodo. "I hardly know why I called upon her when the Black Riders attacked me, yet it seemed the right thing to do."

"You were wiser than you knew, Frodo," Strider said thoughtfully. "Varda, as the Elves call Lady Elbereth, is the brightest and most glorious of the Valar. All evil things flee from her radiance. She and her consort, Lord Manwë, dwell in glorious halls above the snows of Taniquetil in the Blessed Realm, and from there they can see all that happens upon Arda. Apart they are strong, but together they are mightier still. Great eagles and swift hawks bring tidings to Manwë of all things that happen. When he appears to the children of Ilúvatar, he is clad in robes of blue and carries a scepter of sapphire. Varda is so fair, that there are no words that Man or Elf could use that would do justice in describing her. Strider spoke slowly and softly. As he had hoped, the Hobbits soon fell asleep, exhausted after the long and weary day.

The Man remained watchful for a while. Only when he was satisfied that no enemies were abroad did he settle down, pulling his cloak more closely about him. The memory of what he had told the Hobbits lingered in his mind. Manwë and Varda's strength and wisdom was so much more when they were together than when they were apart. So it was too for him and his beloved Arwen. If he could but win the crown, and with it, her hand in marriage, together they could achieve so much that he could not do alone. Would he ever win her hand, or would their love be doomed? Everything yet hung in the balance, depending on what happened to the Ring that Frodo carried.

The sleet had stopped, but the sky remained overcast. As Strider gazed up at it, the wind blew away some wisps of cloud to reveal the stars. Strider smiled, it seemed that Manwë, and Varda had not forgotten him. His spirits soared. It was not as if his love for Arwen were unrequited, as for forty long years he feared it would be. She loved him and had pledged her hand in marriage to him. However, dark the path ahead, Elbereth's stars would light his way.

That comforting thought would sustain him wherever his journey might lead.