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Winds of Change

Chapter Text

Chapter One:

‘English’

‘thoughts’

“Westron”

“Sindarin”

“Quenya”

“Khuzdul”

/Black Speech/


 

As a child, you are continuously encouraged to follow your dreams – to follow your hearts desires as it were. But as you grow older and as soon as those dreams and desires infringe society’s self-imposed opinions of what is proper and what is not. You soon find yourself shackled to a dreary, boring, and rather monotonous existence. Trying – without much success – to figure out what happened to your dreams of being a dancer, an adventurer, an astronaut. By the time your days begin to close in number. It will occur to you the weight of the shackles barring you from escaping the monotonous; were simply an illusion, pressed on you by society and regret seeps deep into your bones. Human kind has been this way for as long as we have had cognitive thought, but that’s not to say there are not those who break free from the shackles to follow those dreams. For without them where would our inspirations to become such people come from?

I suppose you are wondering why I am telling you this; especially as my own experience shows that my story supposedly ended before it even truly began. Well to be honest when my story truly began I was already being chained; drawn into the expected dreary existence of mortal life – one, that I was told would dry out my bright shining potential. At the time, I was completely unaware that I had been destined for far greater things than simply finishing my degree and joining the workforce. Potential for what? In truth at that point I was ever so sure there was nothing I was destined to do or become, but I sure as hell was proved wrong. Quite drastically too, if I were to be entirely honest. Well it’s not everyday you can say the Ainur Namo – or perhaps you would know him better as Mandos – pulls an ordinary girl from her ordinary life and throws her into the middle of an adventure of a lifetime.

 

...

 

“Bloody rain… you just had to walk to work today didn’t you Aella? Flaming fantastic idea that was. Didn’t even bother to check the bloody forecast this morning did you,” a brunette girl muttered to herself in barely concealed irritation, sarcasm dripping from her lips. The rain fell heavily accompanied by loud rumbles of thunder and a symphony of lightning flashes. The pavement was slick with water and the streets were mostly empty, as most – arguably smarter persons – secured themselves indoors for the duration of the storm.

Blue-grey eyes flickered to the sky as it was once again lit up by flashes of lighting.A loud crack of thunder spurring the girl’s rather short legs just that little bit faster as she pulled her sodden jacket tighter to her petite frame. Aella scowled as the rain seemed to beat down upon her harder. It wasn’t too much longer before the eighteen year old reached her front door and with shaking fingers sought for her keys. Within moments she was in the door dripping water onto the floorboards of the entryway. Shutting the door firmly behind her, Aella went through the motions of stripping the soaked woollen jacket from her body. Upon removing her jacket, she found most of her thick brown hair was dry; an aside to her forethought to keep the braided plait under the material of the heavy winter coat she’d worn. Although the hair that framed her face was plastered to her head and face, as she hadn’t thought to bring a hooded jumper or umbrella with her that morning.

 “Goddamn it. I hate getting wet,” Aella grumbled as she toed of her Converses and placed them on the shoe-rack to dry. She hung her sodden coat on the coat hooks next to the door before trekking further into the house. Aella took notice of the short note her Mother had left that morning – pinned to the noticeboard hung in the hallway – stating that she would be home late, and that there was soup in the freezer if she wanted any. Bypassing the kitchen and dining area Aella continued upstairs until she reached her room. Entering, a small sigh of ease left the small brunette’s lips and all the tension from the day melted from her shoulders. Aella smiled as she entered her rather eclectically decorated room. The walls were covered in Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter posters and merchandise. Her favourite was the framed poster map of Middle Earth that took up the space of wall above her bed. Although they were not the only fandoms represented in her room, they certainly were the most eye catching. Shaking her head slightly, the eighteen year old rummaged through her clothes basket of clean clothes she had yet to put away. Grabbing a pair of sweatpants, a jumper, and a clean set of underclothes before heading for her bathroom. Jumping into the shower, Aella enjoyed the feel of the hot water and let her eyes flutter closed for a moment only to have them snap open when everything went dark.

“And there goes my plans for a movie marathon of the Peter Jackson movies,” she groaned as she realised the power had gone out. Heaving a sigh Aella extracted herself from beneath the warm spray and turned the shower off. Dressing quickly, Aella then went about collecting all the candles she could find in the house and set them up in the lounge room. She followed that by collecting several blankets and all her Tolkien book: from the Silmarillion to the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy as well as some of his lesser known books.

“Well if I can’t watch ‘em, best to start reading then,” Aella murmured with a small grin, picking up the Silmarillion and opening to the front page. Hours passed by as the short eighteen-year-old read about the creation of Ea; about the Ainur and the Maiar, Morgoth, and the war for the three Silmarils; about the fall of Numenor and the lead up to the creation of the one ring. Closing the book, a quick glance at the clock and Aella realised she should probably eat something, rather than going through the freezer since the power was still out she decided to grab some cheese and biscuits, along with some salami and eat a light snack instead.

Returning shortly after to her nest of books and blankets, Aella ate quickly before reaching for her next book. Running a fond hand over the cover of the well-loved book. Aella smiled softly at the scribed title, blue-grey eyes loving followed the curved lines reading The Hobbit. As she read, the further the tale of the Company of Thorin Oakenshield lulled her into sleep. Just before she fell into the warm cozy darkness of sleep, she briefly remembered it not being a good idea to leave the candles alight.

 

....

 

The Halls surrounding her glowed from within; a warm colourless light that engulfed the marble and lit the large Hall she stood in. Aella was in awe of the realness of the dream, although she felt weightless and was dressed in a strange gown of what looked to be silver grey satin. Her brown hair fell free in tumbles of natural curls; falling well past her shoulders and down to the middle of her back. If she was honest with herself, she was beginning to feel a little like an elven lady or perhaps a cosplayer. Being the ever curious one, she took a few steps towards one of the large stone pillars. The smooth unblemished stone was a lot like marble without the dark grains of rock. Inspecting the stone, Aella was pleased to discover that she was able to discern the small pebbles of quartz and feldspar from one another. As an aspiring Geologist, she was happy to test her practical knowledge whenever she could. Something that was a bit hard to do with University out for the mid-year break, and her having been forced to take up more hours at the small second-hand bookshop she worked at.

 Gazing around again, Aella noticed there was very little in the way of furniture in the Dream Hall: as she’d chosen to dub it in her mind. Although, the grand walls were covered in rich tapestries depicting scenes of war, of creation, and much to Aella’s amusement what appeared to be scenes from the Silmarillion; The tale of the Two Lamps, The Two Trees of Aman (and their subsequent destruction by Morgoth and Ungoliant), The awakening of the elves at Cuiviénen, Fëanor and the Silmarils, The Edhellen Kinslaying, the tale of Beren and Luthien, The Fall of Gondolin, and Morgoth’s final fall. Wandering further into the Hall, Aella took the time to appreciate the magnificent architecture of the Hall. It was crafted in glorification or perhaps worship she mused, for the breathtaking structure very much had the feel of a place of worship; like the grand cathedrals of the Western World, or the Temples of the Eastern Civilizations.

“What a weird dream, of all the places my mind could conjure...” she murmured her words trailing off when she noticed engravings, “this is Tengwar...”

Irmo was correct it seems, you are vastly knowledgeable about our world and its many languages.” The sudden voice caused Aella to scream and spin on her heel. Before her clothed in robes of various shades of black and grey stood a man. Although the term man seemed ill befitting of such ethereal presence Aella mused, as her heart began to resume its usual pace.

“Uh...hi?” Aella ventured, hyperaware of the unearthly gaze that seemed to be assessing her. Her own blue-grey orbs began their own assessment of the being before her. With hair of the deepest black it almost seemed to seep all colour from the surrounds, the man stood tall and lithe. His robes richly weaved, yet seemed to be made not by the hand of man; a silver circlet was set upon his brow showing him to be a man of great importance, and yet his face was one of youth. As Aella peered closer, she noticed that his eyes held an eternity within their obsidian walls; presenting an aura of one who had seen many ages go by.

Welcome Aella Edana Montgomery to my Halls,the man greeted formally. Aella instantly noted he spoke Quenya, the oldest of the edhellen languages in Ea. A language she had learned how to read and speak for fun as it had helped her learn Sindarin, one of the elvish dialects that was presented in Tolkien’s Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Aella had also learned to read Khuzdul, as it was stemmed from Old Nordic Runes. The next thing she noted was that she had not told the strange being her name.

“How do you know my name? And better yet who are you?” she demanded, a flare of the firey temper she’d inherited from her Scottish maternal Grandmother coming to light.

Fiesty too I see, Aule will be very pleased,” the being murmured, a small smirk pulling at his ageless features.

“Irmo, Aule you speak of the Ainur as if you know them personally?!” Aella stated, her arms crossing over her rather full chest as she observed the being warily.

Indeed. Irmo is my brother, Aule… a colleague,” he returned, amusement clear in his voice.

“Brother? Oh...Oh dear God you mean you’re....”

Namo, yes or perhaps you know me better as Mandos,” the Ainur’s smirk became full blown as Aella stared at him. ‘I’m not so sure this is a dream anymore...’ she thought.

Indeed Wind-daughter you are correct, this is no dream. I have brought you to my Halls from the world of your birth at Eru Iluvatar’s request. You have knowledge of Ea from beyond this realm and Eru would have it that the lives that are to be brought into my care before their time, be saved. You’ll know of whom I am speaking of..." 

“Wait! Wait you’re telling me that you want me to stop certain people’s deaths? Are you crazy I’m just a fangirl it’s best to just send me back home,” Aella interrupted, her voice slightly tight with incredulity.

That is impossible I am afraid. To bring your soul to this realm your physical body belonging to the other realm had to be destroyed. Your body was destroyed in a house fire and your soul released, unsupervised candles I believe was the cause,” Mandos answered his voice taking a tone of solemnity. Aella was speechless, the Doomsayer of the Valar’s words washing over her. Sinking to the ground, the brunette could vaguely remember the overwhelming smell of smoke, and unbearable heat of flames along with the sounds of screaming.

“No, no your lying. I’m not dead I can’t be. I can’t be...” she stuttered out in shock, grief soon overtook her for what she now knew she had lost. For as she spoke the Ainur allowed for her to watch the event with her own eyes; the fire, her family’s discovery of the tragedy, her funeral. Once the scene faded from her mind, Aella could do nothing but sit there, tears of grief rolling down her face and heart wrenching sobs wreaking her small body. It felt like an eternity before Mandos spoke again.

As you can see I have not spoken anything but truth to you. You are Eru Illuvatar’s child, your soul was sung into being by Eru himself. He sent your soul unto the realm called Earth for you to gain the knowledge you would need to save Ea from the darkness left by Melkor. He saved you from fading and is now offering you a new life – one of adventure, excitement and the opportunity to change the fate of those who would be joining my congregation too early. He has granted me permission to bless you with long life not unlike one of the Second Age Numenoreans.

“I was happy with my prior existence, I do not want to live for 300 years!” Aella shouted at the Ainur jumping to her feet, her grief turning to anger. Her eyes turned tumultuous and stormy in her rage.

It would have ruined you and drained your light. It would have destroyed you!” Mandos roared back, the aura of the Vala crushing in its weight. “You would have died this night no matter what, it was not fated and yet we saw that there was no stopping it. The Valar were called to intervene, pulling your soul into our realm instead of leaving it to wander the Earth for eternity.” Aella reared back in shock at what the Vala was saying. “Eru sung to us that it was your time to be brought home, to Ea. We are giving you another chance at life Wind daughter, 350 years to complete your task,” Mandos finished softly, his eyes softening as the child in front of him began to understand the larger picture of what was to come and what had come to past.

Aella crumpled back to the floor in a heap, as the shock seeped into her bones. Neither spoke for some time before the blue-eyed girl ended the silence.

“What would you have me do?” Aella asked brokenly, her eyes sweeping from the ground to the tall Vala before her. Mandos knelt before her, taking her small and delicate hands into his own much larger, yet slender ones.

I would have you live, and complete your fated destiny Wind-daughter. I would have you take up arms against the darkness. I would have you become a legend among the mortals and the edhellen of Arda. I wold have you be the fiery whirlwind that returns peace to the lands of Middle Earth,” he spoke gently but with a force that would ignite the flame of desire to do as he said in anyone who heard him. Aella was no exception. Her heart steeled against her grief as she met the obsidian eyes of Mandos.

I will do as you ask, Ruler of the Dead,” she spoke carefully pronouncing each word to avoid stumbling over her tongue, but with such determination it pulled a smile to the face of the Vala.

Then go Wind-daughter, and change our world” he smiled, and with a gentle kiss to her forehead Aella felt herself falling.

Quite literally falling from something of great height, and it was with a rather loud thud and with great pain the eighteen year old met the ground. As she fell into oblivion, Aella cursed the Keeper of the House of the Dead, rather loudly for her entry to her new reality.

 

...

 

You need to learn some tact husband, I can hear our charge’s rather colourful curses from my workshop,” the reproachful voice of Vaire – one of the Valier, Queens of the Valar – chastised Mandos. The dark haired Ainur glanced over at his wife, before returning obsidian eyes to the image before him. Aella lay unconscious in a small clearing on the forest floor, still dressed in what Mandos had gifted her although her feet were left bare. Three cloaked figures approached her body from the trees, speaking to each other in Westron, the Dunedain Rangers spoke quickly before one stepped forward and lifted the small young woman carefully into his arms.

Fault me not wife, I have placed her in good hands. They shall help her learn Westron and considering she is now of similar descent to them, they are her best bet at education in warfare. She bears the mark of the Ainur, my Queen, she was prophesied to appear, the Dunedain will know what to do.” Even as Mandos spoke, the rangers saw the mark of the Valar on the shoulder of the small eighteen-year-old, an intricate tree with fourteen, six point stars held within its branches. In hurried actions, the three rangers quickly left the vision Mandos had created to observe the goings on of Middle Earth.

You still have a very irritated young woman on your hands husband, and she will let you know of it,” Vaire laughed, in her hands her most recent embroidery project. Mandos look over at his fair-haired wife; the Valier was fair to the eye, hair the colour of spun gold, eyes the colour of the oceans Ulmo ruled over.

Indeed, my Queen. I have my hands full with this one I think,” Mandos smirked, as he leaned back in his grand throne.

 

...

 

Aella woke with a searing headache, and to a strange language being used. To Aella’s sleep riddled mind she assimilated the language to sound similar to a mix of German, Danish and French. After a few moments, the events of what had happened in the Halls of Mandos hit her like a freight train; and she shot up off the bedroll she had been laid on. The image of three very confused Dunedain Rangers met the young woman, their confusion seemed to grow when she began shrieking in a language none of them could identify.

‘What the FUCK! I am going to kill you Namo. You will feel my wrath, Arsehole!’

To the Rangers the image of a rather angry young woman, shrieking at the top of her lungs to the Valar Mandos seemed to confuse them all the more. Aella only began to realise how ridiculous she looked when one of the three Rangers began to chuckle. Her face heated with embarrassment as she quickly shut up. One of the Rangers began to speak to her, and it began to dawn on her that she didn’t know how to speak Westron. If these men couldn’t speak Sindarin she was screwed.

‘I can’t understand you, I don’t speak Westron,’ she returned, shaking her head as she met the confused eyes of the three rangers. Taking a deep breath, she tried another avenue of potential communication. “Do any of you speak Sindarin?” It was to her great pleasure and even greater relief that one of them answered.

I do, though I have not for quite some time,” the leader, a man with dark hair peppered with grey spoke up.

I am by no means fluent but I speak it well enough, and I do not speak Westron,” she answered observing the three rangers in front of her. All three were armed with both bow and blade, and with a full quiver of arrows each. The leader was garbed in a dark green cloak, his travel clothes a mix of green and brown, while the two younger rangers were garbed in black cloaks, with black and navy travel clothes.

So, we can see. Where do you hail from Lady?” the leader of the troupe queried 

Far, far away from here. Which bodes the question, where are we?” Aella returned, her eyes leaving the rangers to examine the surrounding area around them, they appeared to be setting up camp while they still had light. The area was filled with trees but with enough space in between bunches to not be called a forest, the clearings quite vast in size.

Two weeks ride south-east from Lake Evendim, where on its northern shore lies the Dunedain’s current settlement. We are just beyond the borders of Breeland, on the edges of Chetwood.” Aella eyes snapped back to the Ranger

And why would three Rangers of the North, take an unknown woman to their hidden settlement.” She had a funny feeling that Mandos had done something to her, for why else would the Rangers have taken her with them rather than leave her in Bree or some other small village. And really shouldn’t I be freaking out about this a bit more, she thought.

You have been marked by the Ainur, you are their prophesied Chosen One,” he spoke almost reverently. Aella jerked, a twitch forming by her eye at that information.

‘Great now I feel like Harry Potter. Mandos you’d best be aware I will castrate you the next time I see you’ she muttered darkly under her breath. “Well, I wasn’t aware of that. Might I inquire the names of my new traveling companions?” she spoke up eyeing the three curiously.

Of course, Lady. My name is Galdor, the brown-haired ranger to my left is Berethon, and our youngest companion, Alton. What may we call you Lady?” the Ranger now known as Galdor introduced with a small bow, gesturing to each ranger as he went. Berethon and Alton following his example and bowing slightly at their names. Berethon was as Galdor had said, brown of hair. His face was rugged with the beginnings of a beard and a nose that had at some time in the past been broken a time or two; though it did little to mar his handsome features, instead giving him the air of a great warrior. His eyes were the grey most common to the sons of Numenor, and he was tall and muscular from obvious years of training with the sword. Alton was far less scarred, though no less muscular. He was the shortest of the three rangers and yet still towered over Aella’s own 4 ft 10. His hair was a beautiful auburn colour that left a shade of envy in Aella’s heart as her eyes fell upon it. His eyes were grey with flecks of deep blue, and if Aella was honest with herself she would admit that the young ranger was quite handsome. No, scratch that. Entirely too handsome for his own good, she thought, as the ranger in question winked at her with a flirtatious smirk on his handsome features. Fighting down a blush of embarrassment Aella responded.

Aella, Master Galdor, at your service. And I am no lady, of that you can be sure,” she answered with a small clumsy curtsy. Galdor took a moment to introduce her to the other two before returning to her.

It will be at least another fourteen days or perhaps more before we reach the settlement where our Chieftain will speak with you. Until then perhaps we can begin teaching you Westron. It will be easier for you to communicate with others at the settlement then,” he said, a curious light in his grey eyes.

You’re help would be most appreciated Master Galdor,” she answered. Shortly after that, the Rangers finished setting up camp. Galdor had had to forcibly seat Aella, refusing her offer to help and instead telling her to rest up as they did so. It was after a dinner of freshly cooked rabbit – which to Aella’s surprise was incredibly delicious – that Galdor and Alton sat with her and began her lessons, Berethon taking first watch. By the time Galdor had called an end to the lesson for the night, Aella was able to shakily introduce herself in Westron; say she could not speak it well, say she spoke Sindarin better, and say basic phrases such as ‘sorry’, ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’, and ‘please’. Aella had never been more thankful that she had always been a fast learner when it came to linguistics. Plus, she’d always thought immersing one’s self in a language to be a far better teacher then learning in a classroom. Galdor had sent her to her borrowed bedroll after that, handing her a spare cloak to wrap around her to keep the chill of the night at bay. That night Aella slept surprisingly well for someone who had been so abruptly torn from everything she knew. Aella was however very aware that when it did hit her that she would be in for several sleepless nights.

The next few days passed in a similar manner, however the lessons spanned from when the troupe broke camp in the early morning straight through until they made camp for the night. Galdor had solved Aella’s issue of being without shoes by binding them in thick cloth, which while it did not fully protect her toes or heels stopped too much wear on her feet. By the fifteenth day, Aella was able to speak in sentences, however they were rather broken in both fluency and pronunciation. Aella had also by this point realised the direness of what Mandos had told her. She had essentially died, by her own foolishness if what she’d been shown was to be believed; and now Eru Iluvatar himself expected her to save the lives of certain individuals who died before their time, all of whom she knew no names. Of course, she could hazard a few educated guesses. Depending on the year, it could mean Thorin, Fili and Kili; perhaps even Frerin at Azanulbizar. Boromir was a definite candidate, however for him to get wounded might serve the same purpose of freeing him from the ring’s power. Then the next question was to which verse was this world truer, the movies or the books, although there may be a chance that it is a mixture of the two. Depending on the verse there were several others she may have to save Haldir being one, she also wondered if she was supposed to save Theodred. Aella dwelled on these thoughts as she joined Alton for the second watch.

“What troubles you Aella?” he asked quietly, as the other two Ranger’s slept soundly not two feet from them.

“The task...the V-Valar have set me. It is...difficult” the brunette young woman returned in broken Westron. “I must...ch-change the...fates of...indi-vid...people who...joined Mandos in his...Hous-Halls too early.” She felt that was as truthful as she was allowed to be with the knowledge she possessed.

 “A difficult task indeed, do you know the identities of the individuals?” he queried.

“Yes... No... Maybe. The Valar did not...inform me prio-prior to me coming...here,” she answered.

“I see. I shan’t ask about the knowledge you possess, for it appears far too important for a simple Ranger to know about,” he teased with a knowing grin. Aella smiled sheepishly at her new friend, it appeared as though she hadn’t been as subtle about her knowledge after all.

“I app-appre-ciate it Alton,” she responded turning her blue-grey eyes to the sky. One thing she did not miss from her previous life was her inability to see the night sky from the city, seeing the skies filled with the light of millions upon millions of stars was breathtaking, and something she loved.

“Beautiful isn’t it. Lady Varda certainly did a wonderful job,” Alton stated with a chuckle, Aella giggled at the young Ranger’s attempt to cheer her.

“In-indeed all the Valar did,” she returned with a small smile as she glanced sideways at the ranger beside her. Giggling at his light laughter, the two sat in silence for some time before it occurred to Aella she didn’t actually know what year it was. “Alton, what y-year is it?”

“Odd question Lady, but if you must know, it be the year 2881 of the Third Age,” he responded with a teasing grin. 82 years too late for Frerin then, Aella thought.

‘60 years too early for the Quest for Erebor, Mandos what were you thinking,’ she muttered to herself in her native English. “Thank you, Alton. What do you th-think the ch-chance is... Of me being...allo-allowed to tr-train with wea...weapons?”

“You’d like to learn how to master weapons Lady? Well, our people train our women and children in basic weapon arts, I don’t suppose you’d be any different if you asked,” he answered a tad surprised.

“No. Not just ba-basics. I want to be ab-able to...fight and ...hold my own against my en-enemies. Like you.” she finished lamely. Aella had had to pause several times to explain properly what she wanted and it had frustrated her greatly.

“You want to become a Ranger?” Alton asked surprised, turning his navy eyes to examine her critically.

“Yes,” Aella muttered averting her eyes at the almost predatory grin that was spreading across the young Ranger’s face.

“Well then, that will take quite a few years of hard training Lady. At the beginning, it will start with weapons training and then it goes on to learning how to track things through the wilderness. There is also the option of learning herbs and basic healing as well, does that sound suitable Aella?” he teased, though the information he gave was valuable.

“Very much so,” she grinned back.

“Then I will advocate for your training my Lady, and an honour it will be,” Alton bowed his head with an easy smile, one that made her heart sting with the familiarity of it. It was that same smile that her younger brother would smile. Aella had begun to feel the pain of homesickness acutely since her friendships with the Rangers had begun to solidify, Berethon reminded Aella greatly of her elder brother, who had been a good deal older than her and as a result had often babied her, or come across as too protective. Aella had burst out laughing when Berethon had purposefully put himself between her and the edge of the Brandywine river they were following, because he had been afraid she’d fall in. Galdor had surprisingly reminded her of her Father’s brother. Her Uncle had always been keen on story-telling, and would tell stories of his time in the Army. Just as much as she appreciated the familiarity of it all, it hurt just as much to know she would never see them again.

As the troupe continued on the next day, Alton raised the subject of the previous night’s conversation up with the other Rangers. And while Galdor agreed whole heartedly it had taken quite some convincing to get Berethon to give in. In the end, it had taken Aella to unleash her puppy dog eyes upon the Ranger before he finally gave in, much to Aella and Alton’s shared amusement. By the time the troupe had arrived at the Hidden Settlement of the Dunedain, Aella felt very fond of the three of them. It did not take very long for the troupe to gain an audience with the current Chieftain of Dunedain, Argonui son of Arathorn I. When Aella was led by Galdor to the Meeting Hall, she quickly went through all of the information she knew about Aragorn’s Grandfather for he would be the Chief’s son at this point in time. All she could really remembered was that on a scouting tour of the Coldfells, North of Rivendell with Arathorn, he was slain.

Aella also settled herself for asking for something to write with and soon, because she wanted to collate all her information before she forgot anything of import. She observed the man who sat in the ornate throne like chair carefully, noting the Ring of Barahir worn upon the man’s hand. Argonui sat straight backed, his hair black in colour streaked and peppered with silver. His eyes beheld the solid grey befitting the line of Isildur and Elendil. Beside Argonui stood a younger man who bore the same features. Arador, Aragorn’s future grandfather, Aella mused. If Aragorn grew up to be half as handsome as his grandsire she could understand why Arwen would give up her mortal life. Giggling internally at that thought she returned her eyes to Argonui, aware that he had himself done a silent observation of her.

“My Lord, may I present to you the Valar’s Chosen; Lady Aella,” Galdor introduced strongly after explaining where they had discovered her unconscious form in the middle of the Old Forest on the borders of the Shire and Breeland.

“My Lord,” Aella curtsied lowly head bowed, she had purposefully allowed her tangled brown tresses to fall over the unmarked shoulder, so that as she curtsied the counsel of aides present for the presentation would easily see the mark on her left shoulder blade. She had to give Mandos his due. When it came to her dress, it showed enough of her upper back to make the mark quite obvious; hence why she had returned Galdor’s borrowed cloak before they had entered the Hall. Although she would have been far happier had she been offered to bathe properly before the presentation. Her quick dip in the Brandywine had not been enough to make herself appropriately presentable. Mutters and whispers filled the quiet Hall at the sight of the mark, Aella had to keep from rolling her eyes at the childish whispers of the men she was quite sure were older than her Grandfather, who had been at the ripe old age of 92 when she had died.

“Rise Lady, step forward I would like to examine the mark by my own eye if you will permit.” Aella knew this was not a question in the slightest and did as was asked of her with a simple nod of ascent. The Chieftain rose gracefully from his ‘throne’ and stepped down from the wooden dais, he circled the young brunette before stopping behind her. Aella was tense when she felt his hand hover over her shoulder blade, her body coiling itself to escape contact. As if sensing her unease at touch Argonui huffed out a quiet laugh before returning to his seat. “It truly is the mark of the Valar. Welcome to our home Lady.”

“Thank you, My Lord,” Aella responded politely, unsure as to what was to happen now. Galdor took that as the chance to step forward and advocate Aella’s wish to become a Ranger. The brunette tensed, ready for the ridiculing and the refusal but was surprised when Argonui agreed to the training. And she was not the only one, the Chieftain’s aides exploding into loud refusals.

“If it will aid the Lady in her task then so it shall be. Who am I to stand in the way of the Valar’s Chosen. She would not be the first among our womenfolk to have become a Ranger though few they are,” he laughed sending her a knowing smile. The meeting was soon dismissed and Aella was led away to be shown around the settlement, and bathe properly much to her delight. The last thing Aella thought as she followed Galdor out of the hall was how strange it was to be called the Valar’s Chosen.