Title: Made by Maid
Summary: Aragorn and Isilmë discuss the reforging of Narsil.
Characters/Pairings: Aragorn/Arwen, Nethril/Isilmë
Author's Notes:This fic takes place the morning after the events of my fic, To the Day's Rising, though it's not necessary to have read that first. This fic also crosses over slightly with the Pandë!verse, and i am hoping at least a couple more Pandë!verse/Suz!verse intersections will follow this :). Many thanks to pandemonium_213 for letting me borrow a certain lady smith, and to ladyelleth and zopyrus for the beta.
The welcome feast held in honor of King Elessar's return to the Angle lasted long into the night, with toasts and dancing continuing long past sundown, and it was past midnight by the time the king and queen retired to their rooms. Exhausted from the weeks of travel, Arwen fell asleep almost as soon as they got into bed, but Aragorn lay awake for what felt like hours. His mind was too full from the emotions of the day, and the reality of finally returning to the Dúnedain having claimed his full birthright. He finally fell into a fitful doze, punctuated by dreams of his mother weaving in the back room of their home, before he woke once more an hour before dawn and let out a heavy sigh. Clearly, he would get no more rest than that.
It had been a long time since he had spent the night in the Chieftain’s house, but the old stone steps were as familiar to him as the halls of Rivendell, and he ran his hand against the rough walls as he descended the dark staircase. There was a back passage that led directly from the Chieftain’s quarters to the kitchen, which he had always thought as a stroke of architectural genius on the part of whoever had built the old house centuries ago—one of his predecessors, most likely.
He opened the trick door to discover that the kitchen was already occupied. A low fire burned in the hearth, and Isilmë sat at the table, holding a steaming cup in her hands. She looked up at the sound of the opening door and smiled at Aragorn.
Aragorn shook his head. “I always seem to have difficulty, the first night after travel. I keep forgetting we do not have somewhere to be at first light. And you?”
“Nethril was tossing and turning all night—by the time she finally got to sleep, it was too late for me. I thought I might as well make an early start to the day. Would you like some tea?”
“Please,” Aragorn answered, and took a seat beside her. She rose and prodded at the logs in the fire, moving the kettle back onto its hook and swinging it over the flames.
“She told me what you asked of her,” she said, not looking up from her work. “Nethril did.”
“Ah.” Aragorn had not thought much about how his cousin’s lover would react to his request for Nethril to serve as Steward of Arnor—indeed, what anyone in the Angle might think about relocating to Annúminas. He knew that there would be some who would refuse to leave the land where they had lived all their lives, no matter how beleaguered and beset it had become…
“You needn’t worry about me, if that’s what you’re thinking.” Isilmë reached up into the cupboard and pulled down a small box of herbs. “I’ll simply go with her. In fact, I think it’s a perfect idea. It is high time we quit this place. There has been too much death, these past years. Sometimes I feel it has seeped into the walls itself.”
Her tone was light, belied by her bustling around the kitchen, but Aragorn had known Isilmë long enough to recognize when her casual demeanor masked deep feeling. She smiled at him ruefully before she handed him the cup of tea, which carried a strong scent of citrus amidst the bitter smell he usually associated with black tea. He suspected she was borrowing from Finnael’s supply.
“Thank you.” He took a careful sip. “Did you know, the hobbits are quite fond of drinking coffee in the morning, rather than tea? I had always wondered where Dírhael had picked up the habit, though I suppose I should have known…”
Isilmë laughed. “Morgoth’s bones, the smell of it those mornings he and Adanel were holed up in the map room! It would make me wish I’d chosen to spend the night in the forge after all…”
“I’ve been told one gets used to it, but I still think I prefer this,” Aragorn held up his mug in gratitude. “Though I will say I found it to be far more effective in staying awake on nights out in the Wild, keeping watch…”
“Well, you’re a far cry from that life now, are you not?” Isilmë gave him a searching glance from over her teacup. “You know, I must be honest with you, Aragorn. When that gangly lordling with Elvish clothes and manners walked into my grandfather’s forge, all those years ago, I never could have foreseen that he would one day wield Narsil reforged and reunite the kingdoms. Call if a lack of faith, if you will…”
“Call it a fair appraisal,” Aragorn said with a wry smile. “That gangly lordling could not have possibly wielded it then. Even fifteen years ago…” he shook his head.
“Oh, I had started to think on it long before then. There was a period of time, after you’d first come back from serving in Gondor, when I read all I could on the lore of Narsil. I had the foolish thought, in case the time ever did come…but it was clear I could never do it. The command of language, of metal and power—all knowledge that lies with the Firstborn, for all I have learned of my craft.”
“Knowledge beyond even the Firstborn, perhaps…” Aragorn murmured, thinking back to the acts he had taken on in the service of reforging Narsil, of the visions he had witnessed high in the slopes that housed Rivendell’s forge. Even now, he did not know if it could have been undertaken by anyone other than Mélamirë, and in some ways he found it was better not to wonder.
He looked back up to see Isilmë staring at him, an odd expression on her face.
“May I see it?” she asked quietly.
Aragorn hesitated. For a myriad of reasons, that incident in Rohan least among them, he was strangely reluctant to hand Anduril to anyone, particularly if they carried the intent to unsheath the blade. But Isilmë was family, and there was no smith he trusted more in the handling of weaponry. She had an artisan’s talent to match her practical skill, and her own craftsmanship had saved his life more times than he could count.
“Give me a moment. It’s back upstairs.”
Aragorn disappeared back up into his rooms, careful not to wake Arwen, and lifted his sword from its position near the bed. By the time he had returned downstairs, Isilmë had cleared away her mug of tea and was standing near the fireplace. Slowly, carefully, he drew Anduril from its scabbard and presented it to Isilmë. The sun had just started to creep through the window, and the sword shone a pale red as she held it out before her and ran careful fingers reverently over the runes engraved in the blade.
“The very flame of Aulë,” Isilmë breathed. “The craftsmanship alone…and that has to be…” She turned away from and continued to study the blade, muttering to herself, and Aragorn smiled in spite of himself. He didn’t know if he had ever seen Isilmë so impressed.
She finally turned and looked back up at Aragorn. “It’s remarkable. Who reforged it? Not Lord Elrond, surely?”
“He was the one who declared it to be the proper time,” he said. “But no, it was not he who reforged it…”
He trailed off, thinking back to that strange, portentous week before he had set off with Frodo from Rivendell, to another woman who had once been kind enough to make him tea in a darkened kitchen. He wondered, fleetingly, if she intended to stay in Middle-earth long enough to pass on her knowledge to those who possessed Isilmë’s talent.
“She is called the Istyanis,” he said at last. “And I imagine the two of you would have much to speak of, should your paths ever cross.”