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The Naming - By Windfola

The smithy was growing dark as the man entered, for the sun was westering and its light, cloaked in a rich haze of winter gold, mirrored the glowing embers in the forge. As the last rays fell across the sill and fractured upon the bench, a red gleam flamed upon the smith's hands, reflected from the long broadsword as he honed and polished the blade on the whetstone, turning it with skilful fingers and perfecting its razor edge. Aragorn stood long in silence and studied the weapon, his keen eye taking in every detail and unable, it seemed, to turn away. The smith looked up, his fair Elven face untroubled by the intense heat of the forge.

'It is done, my Lord,' said the elf gravely, 'just as Elrond requested.'

He handed the sword to Aragorn and the man, taller than the elf by a head, grasped the hilt of ebony in his right hand and caressed the blade with the forefinger of his left. Again it flared red in the dying sun and the tracery on the blade shone white; the seven stars of Elendil and the crescent moon and rayed sun. Then he smiled, transforming his stern face in an instant and disarming the reticent smith.

'You have done well, my friend,' said Aragorn. 'I thank you.' He swung the sword two or three times, measuring its weight and balance, and suddenly it flashed redder than a glede, though there was now no light to kindle it, save perhaps the gleam that shone in Aragorn's eyes. 'Truly Narsil is reborn.'

'May it bring you better fortune than your forefathers,' replied the elf and bowed low.

Aragorn did not answer but drew from its sheath the long sword that he had born until that day and gave it to the smith. Then he said, 'This sword was my father's and his before him. It is of lesser lineage, but it is an Elvish blade and deserves honour. But I cannot bear two swords. Keep it for me and do not flinch from using it should you have need before my return. If I do not return, then pass it to whomever of my kin remain to fight on in the darkness.'

In the chill of the gathering night Aragorn did not go straightaway to the house of Elrond, but walked slowly by a side path that led to the garden under a canopy of towering beech trees. Narsil hung close to his side in its new sheath, heavier and broader than his father's sword, but marvellously wrought so that it troubled him little. In a short time he would be at ease with its keen edge and double handed grip, but it would take an heir of Elendil with a lifetime of skill to wield it to the full. To complete the task that awaited. And such a man was Aragorn. He knew it well; for Isildur's bane was found and the field of battle was close at hand.

Near to Elrond's garden there was a glade and in one corner stood a simple grave that bore the statue of a slender robed woman above a square block of white stone. It had not been tended for some months and a single tendril of ivy had reached across the front of the figure; while amidst the crevices clung mouldering leaves that had fallen that autumn.

Aragorn stopped and knelt by the monument. For a moment he gazed at the serene features of the figure, utterly still, wrapped in some private memory. In that instant his own countenance had lost its habitual detached reserve and was approaching something wistfully tender, even lost. Then with one hand he gently moved away the ivy and reverently, almost shyly, wiped away the leaf-mould with his bare fingers. The stone bore two lines in Elvish script:

Onen i-Estel Edain, Ú-chebin estel anim.
'Whatever hope you gave, may it not fail you at the last,' he murmured and sighed. He was about to rise when he heard the lightest of footfalls behind him. There was no need to turn; he knew them of old.

'Your mother knew that you would be hunted all your life. But even so I could wish she were here to see you now.'

'Even if she were, she would not have kept me from this journey, hunted as I am,' answered Aragorn. 'But I am glad for her sake that she is free of the darkness in her heart.' He paused. 'She would not have born this parting well, I think.'

'But, foresighted as she was, she would have born it nevertheless,' said Elrond. 'And now you have the sword of kings that only you can wield, there is some hope that you may win through.'

'As Narsil it cut the ring from Sauron's hand and brought not only good but lasting evil to its final bearer,' said Aragorn. 'Can I hope that the same end will not also be mine?'

'You are the heir of Isildur, not Isildur himself, Aragorn,' said Elrond. 'Name the sword anew and be not bound to his fate.'

Aragorn paused. 'Then it shall be called Andúril, Flame of the West,' he answered, 'and kindled in its light shall be the last hope of my people.'

Aragorn rose and drew the sword and now its light was of the rising moon as he bowed his head before Gilraen's grave and stood in silent offering to her memory. Then he turned and walked back to the house with Elrond at his side.

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