The Bitter and the Sweet

Author: Cairistiona

Nominator: Larner

2010 Award Category: Races: Men: Featuring Aragorn - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: A meeting of Kings beyond the Dark Sea.

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Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 10

What might the meeting of the spirit of Isildur with that of Aragorn be like, as the one whose terrible mistake in claiming the Ring as wereguild and the one who saw that artifact at last destroyed at last confront one another beyond the Dark Seas of Death? Based in part on the visions of the afterlife crafted by Lady Roisin, Cairistiona here presents just that meeting, seeing the arrival of the ship that ferries the souls of the dead from the Halls of Mandos to their final destination, and as Isildur watches the King Returned arrive and know his reunions with those he had once loved and lost. It was due to Isildur's mistake that the rule of the two lands founded by the Faithful from Numenor were sundered and lessened over the ensuing milennia; it was Aragorn who saw the two realms reunited after the final destruction of the Ring. What will be this King's judgment be upon his ancestor? Dream-filled, poignant, we witness the reunions with Isildur; our own anxiety mirrors that of Isildur as he awaits the King's attention. Seeing Aragorn through his eyes is almost like finding him anew. Cairistiona has done so well to fulfill the vision, to present the emotions and the final appreciation for Aragorn's first acknowledgment of this forebear's terrible lapse in judgement. May all enjoy it as much as I have!

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger  ✧  Score: 7

The theology of death in Middle-earth is a tricky subject to tackle. If you add Isildur to that equation and bring in all the baggage of a certain golden ring, it gets trickier. Just for fun, add in Aragorn, Halbarad, Arathorn, Gilraen, and everyone else who paid a high price as a result of Isildur's werguild, and you've really got a mess. Cairistiona manages to navigate this minefield with a story that is reminiscent of Tolkien. The theme of bitter and sweet ties all the story threads together, and I love the way Cairistiona weaves this theme into everything. You can see it in the light that plays about the dark sea, the way that passengers look both forward and back, and the way Aragorn comes across in the same manner as everyone else, neither greater nor lesser. Isildur's own thoughts and fears reflect the theme of bitter and sweet, and Aragorn's simple words to him speak volumes. After darkness, there is again a White Tree in Gondor. Powerful story.

Reviewed by: Mirach  ✧  Score: 7

This story does a great work in redeeming Isildur. It seems that the one mistake he made is what everyone remembers about him, and condemn him for it. But he is the one who stole the last fruit of Nimloth, risking his own life, and Aragorn is Isildur's heir - not Elendil's or Valandil's - and he carries that epithet proudly, not with shame for his whole life. That title is, after all, what Sauron was afraid of when Aragorn revealed himself in the palantír, together with the reforged sword that cut the ring from his hand... It is fitting that Aragorn doesn't have his own ship - death makes all equal, there are no kings and subjects. Only the nobility of the spirit is left, and that is visible here, also. It is beautiful to imagine Aragorn meet his parents and Halbarad again. And soon Arwen will arrive with the same ship... It is so touching, that the title of the story fits to it perfectly. Bittersweet indeed!

Reviewed by: Nath  ✧  Score: 6

This is truly a worthy telling of Aragorn's arrival beyond the Circles of the World. The title of the story says it all, as it should definitely come with a hanky warning, though there is plenty of [sweet] in it as well. I would like to quote passages to illustrate, but I'd end up quoting the whole story... As a certified Halbarad fangirl, of course Aragorn's final reunion with his dearest friend stood out for me, though it would not do to forget Arathorn and Gilraen. Arathorn is too often overlooked in stories, and I was glad to see him here. However, I've also always felt that Isildur tends to get a bit of a raw deal in fic, and it was an unexpected pleasure to see this moment dealt with from his point of view, especially with the inclusion of Elendur standing by his side.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 5

There are many stories that imagine various reunions or meetings beyond the circles of Arda. This is one between two characters whose meeting I would never have imagined, and yet one that seems both natural and inevitable: the meeting of Isildur and Elessar. One thing I loved was the use of the ship as a conveyance of the dead! The imagery of a ship is so integral to all the history of Arda: the ships of the Sun and the Moon, the ship of Earendil, the ships of the Numenoreans, a ship carries with it so much in the way of connotations. It seems only fitting for this particular meeting. A wonderfully evocative and touching story: I could see this happening so clearly as Cairistiona described it.

Reviewed by: elliska  ✧  Score: 5

Wow! I mean it. Wow! I had been reading another story of yours and thought I'd try another one here in the MEFAs after I left a review for the first one. And I am just knocked over. This was really powerful. I love how you didn't immediately know (but you could guess) who was the POV character. I love his description of the arrivals. By the time I got to the arrival featured in this story, I was already crying. I thought that event would be the focus and it was powerful enough to watch. But when the POV character and the new arrival speak, I bawled. What a moment that must have been for both of them. And we all can identify to some degree with this, hoping to see someone again someday. Incredibly well done! I loved it!

Reviewed by: Leianora  ✧  Score: 5

This story was excellent! The emotions of the main character made him one I could finally sympathize with. Before reading this story, I could not bring myself to feel much for him. The meeting of Aragorn and the protagonist actually brought tears to my eyes. In one sentence, Aragorn manages to say the very words his ancestor has so desperately needed to hear. He helps to staunch the wounds that have been plaguing his mind for so long. The very simplicity of his forgiveness and acceptance undid me even as it had the same effect on the main character. Note: The reason I'm not saying the main character's name is because I think it would be a major spoiler and I doon't want to write a sporlery review.

Reviewed by: Fiondil  ✧  Score: 5

I had tears in my eyes by the time I finished reading this. Cairistiona does a masterful job of depicting the anguish and the hope of one man waiting for a particular ship to come across the Dark Sea bearing a most special passenger. The imagery is finely drawn and you truly feel as if you are there on that green shore waiting along with the others for the ship to arrive. Who waits and who comes would give away the entire story. Suffice it to say that the end is more sweet than bitter, and you are left with a feeling of great satisfaction at its conclusion. Well done!

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 5

This is a beautiful, touching story, which I defy anyone to read without being deeply moved.There have been many Aragorn death stories written, but they are usually from the point of view of Aragorn himself or Arwen. This one is quite unique as it features Aragorn's reunion with his loved ones beyond the Circles of the World from his ancestor Isildur's point of view. It was wonderful to read about Aragorn's happy reunion with his mother and father and most especially, Halbarad. Aragorn's reunion with Isildur in which his troubled ancestor at long last finds peace,is maybe the final great deed of a great man and king.

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 4

What an unusual concept this is! I've seen many stories about Elves arriving in the Undying Lands, but this is the first time I've seen one about the afterlife of humans. Cairistiona has chosen a very apt perspective, that of Isildur, to report Aragorn's arrival beyond the circles of Arda. The final meeting of those two, so many generations apart, feels very right and necessary.

Reviewed by: curiouswombat  ✧  Score: 4

Ah - I remember this. Such a well written piece, one that will bring a lump to the throat. And what a beautiful idea, that the souls of men travel, just as the bodies of their elven counterparts, on great ships to a far shore where their family and friends await them. Now I want to think of the greeting that awaits Arwen when she arrives - surely not only Aragorn and his kin would await her, but Elros too?

Reviewed by: Inzilbeth  ✧  Score: 4

I absolutely loved this most unusual story. I'm sure a meeting between Aragorn and Isildur beyond the Circles of the World must have been done before but this is the first story I've read of that encounter. The highlight was Aragorn's arrival which seemed so fitting but the most moving was undoubtedly the meeting with his parents. I was also delighted that Cairistiona portrayed Isildur as a good man who suffered a moment of weakness rather than villain he has at times been labelled. This is a most excellent and well written story.

Reviewed by: Aeärwen  ✧  Score: 3

I can definitely see this happening, with all the emotional overtones and sense of both apprehension and joy. The depiction of the setting was delightful, clear without being overdone. Beautifully written!