The War and the Weaver
Challenge: Female Protagonist Challenge
Characters: Arwen, Aravorn
Warnings: Revisionism run rampant
Summary: In which Arwen learns her part in war, with a little help from abroad.
Disclaimer: Not JRRT, not related, making no money, please don't sue.
When Silence Sings
She grew up in the valley and amid the dreamsong trees. Love and war the ancient lays teach, but their shadow touched her not.
Not ‘til the Enemy stretched out his hand, ‘til her mother fell deathly silent in his grip. Celebrían never spoke, the one survivor of her escort swore – never betrayed the way to Imladris, though torture leached her of life, like an old tree beaten hollow within.
Arwen understood, then, her mother’s shadowed songs.
In that moment, she chose – and held fast a new, fierce hatred, against her own trial, which must come.
For that is war.
Her brothers rode wrathful, then, upon the mountains, wreaking slaughter. Arwen would ride, too, but her father refuses her, fearful to lose both wife and daughter.
Such is love in its partiality: sons are cheap and daughters dear.
It answers not to reasoning, though she wears her words out ‘til the truth itself – There is no end to such threat until the enemy is vanquished! – feels brittle.
It will hear no pleas, though she begs him daily.
It will brook no trials – guards bar all ways out of Imladris, and, moreover, the rivers know her face in their waters.
And while she wages fruitless battles with her father, Celebrían grows thinner, otherly.
Arwen has not put hand to blade or bow to kill, but nonetheless, she has not skill enough to heal her mother.
Even Elrond has not that power.
And when Celebrían departs, Arwen must bid farewell at the ford – her father forbids her the long leagues to Mithlond.
Then her grief is bitter. In her mother’s garden, she sings like the seas – a year’s worth of unshed tears and rage flood forth.
And she poisons that patch of earth with her lament – next morn, ‘tis withered bare.
The Poison Glen
Afterward, she grows quiet, thoughtful as she probes that barren earth like a new-bled warrior will a wound – to learn what it means for future warring.
She learned from Elrond the virtues of herbs, the science of surgery, and those arts of healing that touch upon the bond between fëa and hröa, how to encourage the two to knit together.
What may come of using such knowledge to unravel them?
Elrond must not know of such questions, and she hides the garden’s scar. Teacherless, she labors quietly, ‘til one day fate brings her help from the lands beyond the valley…
Beneath the Mantle
Grey-cloaked Rangers, bloodied from battle, come seeking aid. Elrond is in Lórien – hers the duty of succor.
Feverish, their young captain limps among his men, ignoring the rough-tied, blood-soaked bandage. “There are worse wounded,” he says, waving her away.
“Would you give the orcs a victory? You need care,” she chides.
He sighs, but says finally: “If you alone will tend me, then well enough.”
Strange request, but she sees the sense of it once they have retreated to another room.
“Who are you?” Arwen demands.
For beneath his clothing, he is no man.
“I am called Aravorn,” she answers.
The Dark King
The orcs had wolves – Aravorn’s wound needs careful tending. Even so, she burns with fever for three days, and Arwen must open sutures and repoultice more than once.
But she keeps her word, and Aravorn’s secret, though surely the men must know.
“Why?” she asks, when her charge is hale enough for hunger.
Aravorn says naught, intent upon the stew the servants brought, but eventually, sets aside bowl and blankets.
“Aravorn – ”
“Help me!” She will not be refused, so Arwen lends a shoulder.
Once settled in the window casement, Aravorn, pain-pale, but clear-eyed, answers: “Because war needs a chieftain.”
The Dragon Years
The plague of dragons sweeping southwest had wrought havoc. Trade was down, death in the mountains all too likely.
Thus the Rangers had gone hunting.
One brother died under a dragon’s claws; another had been burned beyond saving. Her cousins and three nephews had gone down closing for the kill – a wounded dragon’s throes beat and crush.
And her father, who had led in the battles her grandfather, the Chieftain, Aragost, could no longer wage, was felled destroying a nest of dragons.
From father to son, Isildur’s line ran straight; Aravorn is determined: father to son, it shall not fail.
For there is no king in Gondor, but the scepter in Elrond’s keeping may one day be restored – if only Isildur has heirs.
If only his heirs are sons.
“You could be Aravorn and command from the Angle,” Arwen suggests.
A shrug. “Middle-earth is broader than the Angle. And I would not have the hearts of the men.”
“What said your father’s brothers to this?”
Aravorn laughs. “They said ‘nay.’ War against orcs they know, but they are less adroit on other battlefields. The sword teaches no subtlety, but a queen may spurn no weapon, if only it suits victory.”
The Subtle Blade
Victory, though, is like wisdom – hard-won. Yet Aravorn is determined: “War has laws,” she says, as they talk of old and famous fights over chess. “I despair of wisdom!”
Arwen says only, “He is wise who seeks what shall suffice,” and moves a knight.
Famous fights give way to unsung, lonely struggles. But there, too, victory demands a captain maneuver – change ground, distract, and especially: “Know how to retreat,” Aravorn says. “That is half of Rangering!”
“And the other half?”
“How to attack.”
Arwen ponders, moves a pawn. But the chessboard is bloodless – she concedes.
Attack – that is the question. How?
Aravorn is eloquent, sitting among the maps in the dayroom, her fingers spanning leagues in Eriador: Ranger companies rove the Misty Mountains – bulwarks against the wyrm-scourge. Erebor has succumbed, the peoples – from Rohan to the Angle – may yet.
“Each one an island,” Aravorn says. Her Rangers would carry the fight to the heights, lest darkness descend on a dragon's breath.
“And the orcs,” Arwen says, “grow bolder. You cannot fight so many fronts.”
“Indeed,” Aravorn replies, frowning as she rubs her stiff leg. “We need more men.”
The Torn Weft
More men – and whence shall they come?
“Surely others facing peril shall answer?”
But Aravorn shakes her head, says vexedly, “Since the fall of Arnor, there has been no great leaguer against the Shadow. Then, all ties raveled, for we were so reduced, every town and village needs must defend itself, could count on no others.”
Arwen considers, says, “What was raveled can be re-knit. There must be weavers among us!”
But the world is riven deeper than Imladris, and the weed of mistrust grows wild:
“Hunted men are we, Rangers of Eriador,” says Aravorn. “Secrecy is survival.”
The War Path
What suits victory. Survival is not victory, but will serve it – if only other things grow therefrom. Aravorn worries about husbandry – men to mould, younger marriages to make, more soldiers for the long war.
Beyond the vale, the White Council meets – in time, they may weave anew. Strategy looks long; but Arwen is restless. Imladris is calm. Song echoes, but no children cry – even here, war makes itself felt, and the need to further it.
Somewhere, her brothers ride.
She has but her poisoned glen – fruitless and barren.
She must find another way to war.
For private sorrow sours, saps strength, narrows vision. Aravorn in her vigor that looks beyond The Angle for an end to their enemies, has taught well, though the lesson would be easier learned with some clear way to strike blows and not only for oneself.
“Surely Elrond must have use for his daughter.” Aravorn is puzzled. “I heard elven women were more free than the daughters of Men.”
“Recall Lúthien,” Arwen replies bitterly. “Daughters of kings are bound.”
At that, Aravorn smiles, answers with embrace: “Then remember,” says she, “that even a beech tree can be your battleground!”
On the Road Again
Time heals most wounds. The world waits on no man.
“Even when he is a woman!” Arwen laments.
“Especially so,” says Aravorn. Then: “I shall miss our talks – among women, they are rare.”
“Write to me,” Arwen urges. “I shall look for letters, and more closely at shy Rangers!” They laugh.
Later, as Arwen farewells her guests, Aravorn bows in thanks and leavetaking. The masks are in place for the world without, but:
“I shall send word when I can,” Aravorn promises. “You must tell me how it goes in the matter of beech trees.”
Imladris afterward is quiet – so thinks Arwen. Even when her father and brothers return, silence remains, where once were loved voices.
She must change ground, retreat, but recalls Aredhel's misadventure: she cannot simply flee.
And she must be ruthless, use any gift given.
“Let me visit grandmother,” she tells Elrond. “What has she of mother but one granddaughter? Deny not solace's duty!”
He cannot. She knows he cannot, despite his fear.
“Why came you, Evenstar?” Lórien's lady, Dwimordene's netweaver, asks.
“I would join the White Council,” Arwen declares, to murmured amaze. “Teach me to weave victory!”
Beneath the Mantle/The Dark King: To me, Aravorn is female. Period. The name is just too suggestive and begging to be used in some subversive manner. The sudden surge in dragons provides a reason why the Dunedain might have been in such straits that they let a woman take command as a war-leader – force of necessity. From there, add politics and shake.
The Dragon Years: This builds on fanon I've adopted for myself. I think to date, though, the only other time I've dealt with any of Aravorn's story was in a roundabout way in Affiliations and one B2MEM drabble that deals with Aravorn becoming a Ranger and winning over her swordmaster.
Hírilorniel: “Daughters of kings are bound.” I know Tolkien said all that stuff in LACE about what marriage means and the unequal investment of energy that male and female elves make in the whole procreative process – a point hardly novel or restricted to elves, and likewise with the attendent decision that this totally changes the focus of a woman's subcreative powers. Obviously, this cultural point does not follow, not in the real world, and not in fiction. What makes more sense to me is the point that we have class, here – royal women effectively do not just get to do whatever they want. Their parents control their fates (okay, more like their male relations do – haven't seen much of that from the female rulers/co-rulers). Lower-class elven women – who knows? I thought it would be interesting to have Arwen make that point.
Lothlórien: “I would join the White Council … teach me to weave victory!” I mean, why not? We never get a complete account of who is on the council, besides Galadriel, Saruman, Gandalf, and Elrond. If the point of it is to coordinate the war against Sauron over a vast stretch of both time and space, then it effectively has to be concerned with how alliances are built. I see that as Gandalf's main function – he's the itinerant, he's the agitator, moving people to action in different times and places to the ultimate destruction of Sauron's fighting capacity. I know LOTR has Arwen journey at least twice to Lothlorien, and stay for long stretches, but it never really says why, other than that she was 'visiting her mother's people'. Well, okay, I'm sure that's true, but she is the granddaughter of queens and kings, and the daughter of one of the major generals of the Last Alliance. Is she really just going for a family visit? Why not something more substantive? (Also, it's me, sad, sad Aragorn fan: I can't have Aragorn marry someone who is totally a political neophyte with nothing more going for her than her beauty. No. And I don't want him to be the only thing that makes her think about the world outside. She's thousands of years old. She can have some political fight of her own, based on her own experiences.)