Add Story to Favourites A Star in Midwinter by cairistiona
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Epilogue - Chieftain’s Call

"What exactly are you doing?" Denlad said, a little breathlessly as he tagged along at Aragorn’s heels.

Aragorn smiled. "We have a long tradition, started by one of the chieftains, perhaps Arathorn the First or his son, but it was never written down and now no one remembers. But every Mettarë night, at midnight, the Chieftain comes to the door and calls. And if the people within answer and bid him welcome with a warm fire and a sip of ale, then that household will be blessed in the coming year with good crops and healthy children."

"And the things in this bag?"

"As I told you earlier, they’re blessings. Toys for the children, kindling for the men, beads for the women. When circumstances allow, I spend a good part of my time out in the wilds carving the toys. It helps pass the lonely evenings at the fire. The beads I buy from a merchant in the Grey Havens. The kindling I gather from the woods hereabouts."

"What about the years when you’re not here?"

"Then there is no Chieftain’s Call. But Dirhael manages to come up with alternatives. He dresses up as a bear and delivers the toys. He calls it Beorning’s Growl and I wouldn’t wonder that the children enjoy that far more than their very ordinary Chieftain calling."

Denlad chuckled.

They were approaching the first house. Aragorn looked up at the night sky; they were still a few minutes early. He stopped and looked at Denlad, smiling at the sight of the young man still proudly wearing his new cloak and pin. "Will you sleep in it, do you think?" he asked.

Denlad grinned. "I might. It seems a dream, somehow. I worry I will wake up and it will all be gone."

"’Tis no dream, Denlad. You are now where you belong."

The grin widened.

"Come. It is time.  There are not many houses in this settlement, but I need to get to all of them before the hour slips away."

"Whose house is this?"

"This is Maevor’s. He has three children, and a wife who is quite ill." Aragorn pulled out three carved spinning tops, a bundle of sticks and one of the necklaces. He tucked the tops in a pocket and the bundle of kindling under his arm, but held the necklace for a moment, running his fingers across the beads. "This may well be her last Mettarë."

"Halbarad mentioned she was ill. I did not realize it was so bad."

Aragorn nodded, his throat momentarily closing on him, then he tossed the beads a few times. "We must hide our sorrow this night," he finally said, clearing his throat. "The family needs happy memories, not sorrowful ones."

"Do I stay outside?"

"I’m afraid you must, yes. Only the Chieftain calls, and only the Chieftain enters."

"I will wait right here, then."

Aragorn nodded, then stepped up to the door of the cottage and pounded. "The Chieftain calls! How will you answer?"

A muffled chorus of children’s voices cried, "We bid him come! We bid him come!"

Aragorn smiled at Denlad, then opened the door. "Behold, he comes, and may blessings be upon this house!" he cried and immediately three children launched themselves at him. He laughed, squatting down to meet them with hugs, then handed out the wooden toys. He shooed them away, then stood as Maevor handed him a tankard. Aragorn sipped from it, then handed it back. He went to the fire and placed the bundle of sticks in the flames. "May your fire always burn brightly."

"Thank you, Lord Aragorn," Maevor said, his smile as broad as ever.

"Is Idril well enough?"

"Aye, she would not miss this! Come along."

Aragorn followed Maevor to a small bedroom at the back of the cottage. There was a large bed in the room’s center, and a tiny woman within, nearly swallowed by the linens and pillows. Aragorn paused at the door and knocked softly. "The Chieftain calls!" he said playfully.

"Lord Aragorn," she said softly, her smile as wide as her husband’s. If she were in pain, Aragorn could not see it. She stretched out her hand. "Of course I bid you come."

Aragorn smiled as he gently took her hand. It felt as fragile as a bird’s wing, translucent skin stretched so delicately over the bones that his own strong and large hand felt clumsy and vulgar in comparison. Here, he knew, was a woman close to death. He had many weeks earlier conceded that there was nothing he as a healer could do for her, for her time was nearly at hand. He swallowed and kept his expression calm, his voice steady. It was likely the hardest thing he had ever done. "Blessings upon you, Idril. How are you feeling?"

"I will live to see a few more sunrises, fear not."

"Of that I have no doubt." He held up the beads. "May beauty be yours in the coming year." He slipped the strand gently over her head. "Is there anything else you need?"

"No, I have all I need right here," she said, smiling at her husband and children, who had trooped in to ring around her bed.

"That’s right!" the youngest, a little girl of five, piped up. "I help cook!"

"And I clean the floors!" the second boy chimed.

"And I give her peppermints!" the oldest laughed.

"Ah, so that’s why you climbed up my back and tackled me, you little rascal!" Aragorn growled, feigning a punch toward the boy’s head. "Stealing my peppermints for your mother!"

The boy ducked, laughing, and ran out of the room. Aragorn bent over Idril and gave her a kiss on the forehead. "I will come by tomorrow, to check on you."

"I would like that, Lord Aragorn."

He shook Maevor’s head and let himself out of the house. He paused for a moment, looking long into the night sky. Gil-Estel had set, but there was a host of lights scattered in a frosty band across the heavens.

"Aragorn?" Denlad said softly. "Are you all right?"

"A moment," Aragorn said, his voice catching. "A moment."

Denlad waited, saying nothing, and Aragorn finally sighed. "I am a healer," he said quietly. "And yet..." He shook his head and worked up a smile. "Come. We have many more homes to visit ere the hour is past."

Denlad fell in step beside him. "Aragorn, may I ask you something?"


"Do you drink at every house?"

Aragorn laughed, his mood lifting. "You are no doubt wondering if you will have to drag home a drunken chieftain by the end of this, aren’t you?"

"It has crossed my mind."

"I drink only a sip at each house."


"Watching out for me already, are you?"

"Always," Denlad said firmly.

Aragorn smiled. "Then perhaps I will start taking more than a sip."

Denlad stumbled a bit, and Aragorn laughed aloud. "Fear not, Denlad! I promise to stay quite sober."

And so they walked from house to house, Aragorn entering, Denlad faithfully waiting outside, until the bag was nearly empty and Aragorn’s heart full. After emerging from Dirhael’s home, he took the bag from Denlad. "Run along home, now. And await your Chieftain’s call."

Denlad grin nearly split his face in two, and he hurried down the hill. Aragorn watched him go. "Run along home, Mighty Warrior," he whispered into the night. "Run along home."

He hitched the bag, then walked down the hill.



~And a Merry Christmas to all~

Author’s Notes:

My imagined tradition of the Dúnedain’s Chieftain’s Call borrows heavily on the Scottish tradition of first-foot or first-footin, in which the first person–usually a dark-haired male, preferably young and handsome (can you now see why I had to include something like this??)–to cross the threshold bearing gifts on the night of the New Year brings good luck and prosperity for the new year. He brings with him symbolic gifts of coal or coin or even whiskey. I borrowed that idea and reworked it into a traditional role for the Dúnedain chieftain to perform at Yule.

As for the meaning of the Star of the Dunedain pins–that is something I have often wondered about. Tolkien left no clear definition of their significance of the pins, so I have drawn my own conclusions, based on the history of the Dunedain and the importance of the star to that people. I did not think it a stretch to have it be a symbol of the lost mithril Elendilmir, even as it is a symbol of hope that they would once again have a King that would wear the Elendilmir upon his brow once more. I do not see the pins as a symbol of rank, but more as a symbol of hope and of their responsibility to protect the line of Kings.

I hope this story added a little bit of entertainment to your Christmas season, and a blessed New Year to you all!

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