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Title: Turning
Summary: Adanel, Ivorwen, and Nethril discuss Aragorn's future.
Author's Notes: Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] zopyrus for the beta!
[I am holding off posting this to the Archive because in theory it's a WIP, with one more scene to go...but I wanted to put this up for Legendarium Ladies April before the Textual Ghosts prompt got too old. And yes, I changed the title from what it is on Tumblr. I'm fickle like that]

T.A 2952
Nethril could not remember precisely when her grandmother had started inviting her to meals with the Lady Adanel, but it had begun not long after her cousin Aragorn’s return. She was not entirely certain what purpose her presence served at such meetings, but on nights like tonight she was content to serve wine, sit beside the fire, and listen while her grandmother discussed everything from petty gossip to the most important matters of governance with the acting Chieftain of the Dúnedain. The conversation turned to Aragorn near the end of the meal, and the two older women fall into a sharp debate about the question of his assuming the title of Chieftain in deed as well as in name.

“The people still revere him as a symbol, not a leader,” Adanel was saying as Nethril cleared the table. “That will not change unless we allow him to assume his place as Chieftain now. He has proven himself well enough, if Halbarad’s reports are any indication…”

“That wound of his has still not fully healed.” Ivorwen did not bother to hide her exasperation. “He should never have insisted on continuing a patrol after such an injury. It is an error that carries all the earnest folly of youth…”

“That more than anything demonstrates his readiness,” Adanel countered. “He has made a mistake, proven that he is human after all, and it has endeared him to the men. The gesture was admirable, foolish as it was, and next time he shall know not to risk his own well-being for the sake of others.”

“He does not come of age for another four years. Are you sure your own desire to step down is not clouding your judgement?”

Adanel gave a wry smile. “It might be. But let it. I have earned such lapses, don’t you think?”

Ivorwen snorted. “You will earn them when we see Aragorn through to his proper position, and then we can all take a good long rest. But I am not convinced we have reached that point.”

“What do you think, young one?” Adanel turned her sharp gaze to Nethril. “You have certainly spent more time with him than we have, these last weeks.”

Nethril blinked in surprise. She rarely offered her own opinions in Adanel’s presence, and was asked for them even more infrequently. But when she met the lady’s gaze she saw frank assessment, and Nethril sensed that her own future as well as Aragorn’s lay in the balance of her response.

“What does Aragorn have to say on the matter?” she asked carefully.

“He has said from the beginning he will defer to my judgement,” Adanel smiled once more. “Wise boy. Elrond has taught him well in more ways than one.”

Nethril nodded and thought back to her cousin, so quiet still, and so keenly aware of the weight of his birthright. According to her brother Halbarad, Aragorn’s reserved nature all but vanished when he was in the field, and he had developed an easy camaraderie with the Rangers who fought alongside him. But home, in the Angle, he still walked as if on tiptoe. He spoke when needed at council meetings, and was not afraid to disagree with the old guard, but he was always the first to back down, always too quick to defer to those with more experience.

Adanel was right. That would not change unless he stepped out of her shadow and began to cast his own.

“He has won the love of the people, and he has your teachings as well as Elrond’s,” she said at last. “He is as ready as he will ever be.”

Across the table, Ivorwen smiled, and refilled her granddaughter’s wineglass. “As are you, my dear.”

Notes:
1. As far as I know, Tolkien never specifies what year Dúnedain come of age. I have taken the nice round age of 25 from Gandalf’s Apprentice’s fic, which seems sensible given their lengthened lifespans.
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