Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Journey's End

Author: Altariel
Nominator: phyloxena
2007 Award Category: Genres: Drama: Ithilien - First Place

Story Type: Story : Length: Short Story
Rating: General -- Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: Inns, beer, folk songs, and Rangers


Reviewed by: dkpalaska -- Score: 10

Ah, this story is so lovely and understated and beautiful, with the trademark Altariel ability to turn out a plethora of magical phrases and descriptions: ["impossible courtesy", "fellow fools and hopefuls", "soft grey speech", "a smile of unusual and vivid beauty";] and the entirety of the heart-breaking paragraph that starts ["Oh, but these new songs..."], to name a few. Marvelous tone and writing throughout, and an ending that leaves me deeply contented. Eilen's voice is extremely well done. She is calm and matter-of-fact about the tragedies and triumphs of life, still sympathetic and kind despite the trials she and her husband have endured. It is the mindset required of someone brave and (yes) foolhardy enough to help resettle once-abandoned and still dangerous lands. The piecemeal and casual way that her own full story is told fits perfectly with her characterization. I didn't guess at the identity of the rangers until the end, and my suspicions (borne out by the responses of the vast majority of readers *g*) do add an additional layer of enjoyment for me, watching two well-loved individuals interact. But in the end, it really doesn't matter who they are: for me, the emotional impact comes almost entirely from Eilen and the settlers' stories and daily courage, and the blessed peace of the Fourth Age they "woke up" to one day. Such a wonderful, wonderful ground-level view of the Average Man meeting adversity head on and still wanting to ["begin the dance again"]. The ends of many journeys are contained within: the end of evil, and peace finally realized in Ithilien; the victorious struggle of tenacious settlers from war to prosperity; and of dreams accomplished for our beloved pair of Rangers.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene -- Score: 10

How did I miss this one? I love this vision of Fourth Age Ithilien: once more a garden and peaceful, safe for visitors and travellers. No more need for Rangers on every doorstep, and the inn and the town stand as the realization of dreams built on the edge of catastrophe. The shadow of the Ring War remains strong in the survivors who have come to settle there and to make their lives. They remember the battles, and the friends and brothers lost; they remember what it was like in Ithilien when the first wave of (re)settlers came east, the innkeeper and her husband (a veteran) among them. Once upon a time, they needed the Rangers, but now a pair of them showing up on their doorstep is a rarity. We suspect we have to know these two - they look similar, one's older, one's younger, they're perhaps just a little too happy to be sleeping in a barn in a safe settlement. I sense the reversal of a certain well known story about late arrivals sent off to sleep in the manger... They don't get out much anymore, and they're missing it, clearly - even being a Ranger on a fairly safe beat is better than letting it go entirely. The younger Ranger's reaction to a song - and the innkeep's swift recognition of what it must indicate - is well done. So also is the intervention of the older Ranger, who knows just what to say to get the other one laughing again. I am sure the Prince and King will receive the 'news' of Ranger-friendly establishments very well indeed. Very enjoyable, Altariel!

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 8

One of my favorite Aragorn/Faramir friendship stories never mentions them by name. In this smoothly written story, the narrator is a woman who runs an inn, and, on a day several years after the end of the Ring War, welcomes two mysterious Dunedain travelers who look alike as a father and son. The travelers' reactions to a song about a hero lost in war bring out the narrator's own past losses as well as the sorrow of one of the travelers. All this flows seamlessly from Altariel's virtual pen - the woman's grief for the young man she loved and lost is a good counterpoint to Faramir's sorrow and an acknowledgement that, of course, many more besides the named characters lost family in the Ring War. Luckily, the story shows that the wounds of war can heal, even if they cannot be forgotten. The relationship between the incognito King and Steward is marvelously and credibly written, too...Even when seen through the eyes of a stranger, their charisma and strength, and mutual esteem, and familiarity with each other's habits are visible, in the way of longtime friends.

Reviewed by: Marta -- Score: 8

This is a really great play on the scene in "Henry V" where the king passes as a common soldier among his people. The first time I read this story, Altariel kept me guessing until the very end at the identities of those two; I guessed it was canonical but for a while was convinced it was Beregond and Bergil! Knowing their true identities, I enjoyed nuances of the story a lot more this time through (but I won't give the game away to people reading this review, because the guessing and looking for clues is half the fun). But "Journey's End" is more than just a play at mistaken identity. Altariel does a remarkable amount of worldbuilding in such a short space, giving us a picture about what life in Gondor in the Fourth Age might have been like, and in particular at how the resettling at Ithilien might have progressed. The OCs were compelling, and I think the details Altariel tells us are very likely how it really would have happened. All in all, a very enjoyable read for people who like a plausible but still light-hearted and fun Gondor.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel -- Score: 7

The passage of time since the end of the WotR is implied subtly, there is really no need for much exposition, it's all clear from the way people think and behave, and the fact that the Rangers are no longer so much in evidence (and needed). Intriguing background for the PoV-character, and one I can very well see as something in the New Age. It's also fascinating to be witness to her thoughts and memories of the war, how she coped with her losses and was brave enough to let herself be happy again, how she made a new life for herself. I liked how you went with and developed the idea of how similar and yet different Aragorn and Faramir are; shaped by quite differing lives and having different quirks (Aragorn's smoking, Faramir's fingers revealing his interest in music) and yet with the common root of the Dúnedain and similar character traits. It's wonderful to see just how vivacious your Faramir has become as the shadow of his earlier life has lifted in the intervening years. My favourite detail was the idea of the ["impossible courtesy all his kind managed no matter what the journey had been like"].

Reviewed by: phyloxena -- Score: 5

Beautifully written, from the point of view if an inn-keeper with a sad memory . The writing evokes the imagery of peaceful Ithilien and gives very convincing picture of the years before the peace was achieved in very few words. For some reason, midnight surgery impressed me most of all -- probably because of all splinters removal and bandage applying performed with a LED pocket light. Of course, these two Rangers are always a treat. I am glad Aragon can heal the heart; that the King and the Prince can go rangering, and they are friends, apparently.

Reviewed by: Bodkin -- Score: 5

Delightful. The character of Eilen is well realised - she's a sharp-eyed and practical woman, caring and intelligent - and with a good understanding of what is really important. I like her family background - and I love the way she sees that the visitors condemned to the barn are actually quite pleased by the decision. The Rangers, of course - well, they would be pleased. They've been let off leashes that must choke them both at times, even if they are given to acts of nobility and self-sacrifice. I hope they do get the chance to return to the inn.

Reviewed by: Radbooks -- Score: 4

Oh, what a lovely little story. I love seeing Aragorn and Faramir being able to sneak away and enjoy some peaceful times out with their people and just having a 'road trip'. I'm sure it was very difficult for both of them to be stuck in Minas Tirith all the time after their long years as Rangers. I loved your original character, Eilen, the hostess of the inn; you made her very real in such a short story. I wonder if she ever did figure out who she had sleeping in her barn, but she probably didn't. Thanks so much for sharing this!

Reviewed by: Gandalfs apprentice -- Score: 4

When I see Rangers at an inn, I immediately think of Bree and the Northern Dunedain, so it was with some surprise and delight that I realized I was in the South. Altariel plays on the ambiguity, though, gently reminding us that both the King and the Prince were once both Rangers, albeit in different realms. The two men must be Aragorn and Faramir, by all signs, but they could be any two Gondorian warriors--and that's what gives this tale its particular depth and poignancy.

Reviewed by: Nancy Brooke -- Score: 4

What a terrific tale, taking right off from where Tolkien left Gondor and building forward so naturally and easily. The pacing of this story was gentle, the style economic, and yet brought the reader a wonderfully full story, packed with details that only added to the central focus, never detracted. The characters were beautifully conveyed through actions and circumstances, the writer cleverly subsumed in the narrator's voice telling us everything we needed to know to feel this time and place.

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 4

Ah, to have read this once more! Two Rangers, younger and older, have come to Bey and Eilen's inn, far down in Ithilien. The older one puffs at his pipe, both seem glad to sleep in the barn when the inn proves full, and the song sung about leaving a brother behind in the war brings tears to the eyes of the younger one. She gives them a good meal for supper and again for breakfast.... A lovely look at two traveling incognito, getting back to their roots. And the moods are superbly conveyed.

Reviewed by: Llinos -- Score: 4

This is a very good story. The two "Rangers" are very much at the heart of the piece even though the story is not told from their pov. The mistress of the inn is an excellent OC and her thoughts provide a very clear example of how everyday folks must have suffered during the War. I really liked the idea that these two particular travellers might sneak away now and again for a bit of anonymity!

Reviewed by: nau_tika -- Score: 3

I'd read this somewhere else and really enjoyed it. There was speculation about who the two were but I can only see Faramir and Aragorn getting away from the Stewardship and Kingship. Light-hearted and fun! Thanks for sharing.

Reviewed by: Linda hoyland -- Score: 3

A truly outstanding story concerning two former Rangers,who I am sure, I'm not alone in hoping they had the comfortable friendship depicted in this very enjoyable story,which also features a vividly depicted OC.