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XI. Heart of Glass (Gilraen, Aragorn)
She knelt on the floor, carefully picking up the shards of glass. Why did it have to be this one that broke? Six exquisite miniature glass cats of different colors lined Gilraen’s dresser, a legacy of the lost Elven land of Eregion that Celebrian had not taken with her. A magnificent cut glass pitcher, which was supposedly made in Menegroth, shone in the center of the small table where Gilraen breakfasted with her son. Yet they held little worth to Gilraen, compared to the small glass horse that Aragorn had just shattered with one throw of his ball.
The glass horse had seemed clumsy and plain besides the Elven-made masterpieces. But Gilraen could still hear the pride in Arathorn’s voice when he gave it to her. The little horse was an heirloom in the House of Isildur. Legend said, Arathorn had told her, that Elendil himself had brought the glass figurine from lost Numenor, in remembrance of the many horses he had not been able to save.
Gilraen could not bear to leave it behind. In the year since Arathorn’s death, she had looked at the glass horse every day, sometimes touching it with a careful, wistful finger, recalling how it had reflected the candlelight from its place on the rough wooden mantelpiece of her home. The Dúnedain had scant use for pretty things; their wealth went to the keeping of arms, livestock, books, and people. But some families still kept a small treasure or two, silver belt-buckles, delicate brooches worn by princesses of Arnor, keepsakes from brighter days.
The glass horse was gone now. Gilraen’s shoulders began to shake as she swept up the last pieces and emptied them into the dustbin.
“Don’t cry, Mama”, Aragorn said. “Father Elrond will get you another horse.”
A great wave of anger flooded her heart. “It cannot be replaced, Ara-Estel! You should have been more careful!” How could the boy not see the pain that his recklessness had caused? How could her son claim that Elf as his father? She wanted to slap him. She wanted to weep.
Gilraen sank to her knees, then tightly clasped her shoulders.
“Mama?” Her boy looked up at Gilraen. She saw doubt in his eyes, and his lower lip quivered. Gilraen recognized the signs of confused fear that she had not seen since that exhausting journey from the only home he had ever known. Her only home too, for she was just a guest in this place. The Elves cherished Gilraen and treated her like a visiting princess, but she would never belong in the Elven house, no matter how many glass cats they gave her.
But none of that was Aragorn’s fault! He was so young, just three years old; too little to understand a boastful throw of the ball could hurt her so. Nor could he understand that it was not just the small glass horse she mourned, but also the greater loss of Aragorn’s father; and the home and good, useful life they had shared.
“Come here, Estel,” Gilraen said gently.
The child moved warily to her side.
“You must be more careful, my son,” Gilraen explained. “Do not throw the ball inside the house. You are growing big now; too big to behave like a foolish baby any more.”
“I’m sorry, Mama,” he whispered, true contrition in his voice.
“I know,” Gilraen answered, drawing him into the circle of her arms. “You are my good boy.”
And he was. No glass trinket was worth her little boy’s tears! It mattered not that she had lost her home and missed her people. To safeguard Aragorn, Gilraen would gladly have borne him to the halls of the Dwarves or the icy fastnesses of the Blue Mountains.
“Let us go to the courtyard, Estel,” Gilraen decided. “Bring your ball; and we will play with it.”
“Yes, Mama; we go, we go!” Aragorn squealed, pulling Gilraen by the hand. Her heart stabbed again with the thought that Arathorn should be walking with them. She squared her shoulders; and once more locked up her grief. She could never belong here; but Gilraen vowed that Aragorn would. She would make Imladris into a happy home for her son.
The first two lines of this ficlet comprise a challenge prompt from the B2MEM "Back to Middle-Earth" fanfiction challenge. This story was written for the B2MEM challenge; my only regret is that I didn't come up with more stories in answer to the month-long activity.
Thanks, Linda Hoyland, for welcome editorial advice/assistance.
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