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Author's Chapter Notes:
This story is part of the Naked Yule Challenge: a challenge for Peppy, which required the fic to include: Aragorn, Legolas and Glorfindel; a naked elf; a horse; snow; a confession; and a Christmas image such as a tree, Yule log, holly, wisemen, drummer boys, etc.

Coordinated by Nieriel Raina and Fiondil.
A Midwinter Play
By Alassiel


Scene One: The stables of Imladris. Aragorn, who is five years old, is helping his friend Glorfindel to curry Asfaloth.


Aragorn: Findel, what is Yule?

Glorfindel: Why do you ask, little one?

Aragorn: I heard one of prince Legolas' people say it is Yule today. What is that?

Glorfindel: It is a time when the Edain remember the light.

Aragorn: Can't they see the light, Findel?

Glorfindel: Of course, but it is the darkest time of the year, and they wish to remember that the light of the sun will grow each day as the year turns.

Aragorn: What do they do?

Glorfindel: They hang holly and fir boughs in the hall and light many candles.

Aragorn: I wish we could do that.

Glorfindel: (smiling at the child) Perhaps we can. Shall I ask your Ada?

Aragorn: I'll ask him, Findel, when we're finished brushing Asfaloth.

Scene Two: Elrond's apartments. The master of Imladris is in the bath, clouds of steam rising about him. From just outside the door, he hears the voice of his foster son.

Aragorn: Ada! Ada! Are you here?

Elrond: I am, Estel. You may come in if you wish.

Aragorn pushes open the door of the bathing chamber, scurries in and perches on the side of the tub.

Aragorn: Ada, can we put fir branches and holly in the hall and light candles?

Elrond pretends to deliberate for a few moments, but his eyes are full of merriment.

Elrond: I think this is a splendid idea, Estel, but you will need help to do it.

Aragorn: Findel says he will help, and maybe some of the people from the Woodlands will help.

Elrond: (seriously) You must not trouble them, Estel. They have had a long journey, for the snow is deep in the mountains.

Aragorn: (looking crestfallen) May I not ask, Ada?

Elrond: You may, child, but do not press them.

Aragorn: I won't, Ada. Thank you.

Scene Three: Legolas and Glorfindel are standing in the hall of fire. Except for the light of the blaze from the hearth, the hall is dim. They hear the sound of running feet, and Aragorn dashes into the room.

Aragorn: Findel, he said we could do it.

Legolas: Do what, child?

Aragorn: Yule.

Legolas: Then you will need aid gathering boughs. Run and get your cloak, for it is snowing again.

Scene Four: In the woods above Imladris, Aragorn, Glorfindel and Legolas are walking slowly from tree to tree. Large soft flakes of snow fall gently from a windless sky. Legolas stands by one small fir tree, singing quietly. After a moment, he swiftly and cleanly strikes off a branch with the small axe he carries.

Aragorn: (looking worried) Does it hurt them?

Legolas: I only take what they are willing to give, young one. These boughs would crowd out others, and the pain is swiftly over. There, I think we have enough.

Scene Five: In the Hall of Feasting, Glorfindel steadies a ladder for Legolas, who is twining holly and fir branches around one of the rafters. Aragorn is hopping from foot to foot in excitement. Other elves are moving about the hall, setting up tables and making preparations for the evening meal, which has become an impromptu feast.

Aragorn: Can I help hang the branches?

Glorfindel (looking at him somewhat sternly): For the third time, child, you may not climb the ladder. It is too tall. Will you give me your word not to do so?

Aragorn nods reluctantly, and Glorfindel ruffles his hair affectionately.

Legolas: Come, Glorfindel. Let us move the ladder beneath the next beam.

The two elves place the ladder, then leave the hall to bring in more branches. For the moment, Aragorn is alone, as the other elves have left also. He looks up at the rafter, then at the ladder, his posture and expression reflecting indecision. Then he sets his right foot on the lowest rung. For an instant he is motionless. Then slowly, he removes his foot from the rung and backs away, his head lowered. Glorfindel and Legolas return, bearing armloads of branches. They set them carefully by a wall, except for a few which Legolas holds lightly in one hand as he gracefully climbs the ladder. Glorfindel stands beside it, his hands holding it firmly. He glances over at Aragorn, noticing the boy's silence.

Glorfindel: Estel, are you well?

Aragorn nods, but does not look at his friend directly. From above, Legolas begins to sing softly a song of frost and midwinter stars.

Legolas: The glittering gems of Elbereth have fallen to the earth this night.
Each barren branch and stalk of grass reflects their shimmering diamond light.
Yet still they shine in heaven's field, still blaze within its sparkling dome.
They guide us through the marr'ed world, and show the path which leads us home.

Aragorn reaches over and tugs at the hem of Glorfindel's tunic.

Glorfindel: Estel?

Aragorn squares his shoulders and looks up at the elf-lord.

Aragorn: I started to climb the ladder Fin—Glorfindel.

Glorfindel looks at the child solemnly.

Glorfindel: What do you think should be done, Estel?

Aragorn bites his lower lip to keep it from trembling.

Aragorn: (almost inaudibly) I think I should go to bed and not see the candles or eat the feast.

Glorfindel (still solemnly) I think you are right, for you have broken your word.

Aragorn nods, tears beginning to flow down his face. He turns and trudges out of the hall.

Legolas: Is that not hard on the child?

Glorfindel: (sadly) It is, but he has set his own discipline, for he needs to learn to govern himself. We shall see how it is with him in the morning.

Scene Six: It is snowing hard, the flakes swirling against the windows of Aragorn's chamber. He is staring listlessly into the dimming whiteness of the window, for evening is coming. There is a gentle tap on the door.

Aragorn: Come in.

The door opens and Glorfindel and Legolas enter, the latter bearing a lamp, which he sets on a bedside table.

Glorfindel: Your ada and your nana have sent us to bring you to eat, little one. They tell us that you have not done so all day.

Aragorn: I broke my word to you.

Glorfindel: You did, Estel, and you have undergone your discipline. Now it is time to put it behind you.

Glorfindel sits on the bed beside the boy and puts an arm around his shoulders. Looking at him gravely, he says: Why is it important to keep your word, Estel?

Aragorn: So that people can trust you.

Glorfindel: True. Trust can be broken, but it can also be restored. Let us vow, you and I, to keep faith with one another.

Glorfindel grasps Aragorn's wrist, warrior fashion. The boy looks up at him, smiling a bit tremulously, but smiling.

Aragorn: (clearly) I vow to keep my word, whether you're there or not.

Glorfindel: As do I, child.

Legolas: And I. Now come, for the meal is set.

Scene Seven: Aragorn, Glorfindel and Legolas are walking down a corridor. As they come to an intersection of three passages, Aragorn starts to turn toward the small dining hall where he eats with Elrond, his mother and Elrond's sons, but Glorfindel catches his hand and turns him in the opposite direction.

Aragorn: Findel, why are we going this way?

Glorfindel: You will see.

They enter the Hall of Feasting, which is ablaze with candlelight and vibrant with the reds and greens of holly and fir boughs. Aragorn stands still in wonder, then turns to his friends.

Aragorn: Why is it still—like this?

Legolas: (laughing) Because Yule is not just one day, child. True, you will not see the First Lighting of the Yule Flame, which shows the hope of returning light, but you will see the hope fulfilled, the trust unbroken.

With that, the two elf-lords lead the child to the high table, where Elrond, Gilraen, and all of his family are seated. Elrond rises, and coming to Aragorn, he takes the boy in his arms and embraces him, kissing him lightly on the forehead.

Elrond: Let darkness flee from you this night, Estel. Let the hope which we have called you fill your heart.

The End.
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