Estel trudged through the forest, boots treading on the springy green forest floor, and tried to sort out everything that had happened in the past weeks. Piece them together, organize them in drawers so that they were no longer the scattered mess of emotions and memories. But nothing seemed to make sense anymore.
Because when Elrond told Estel the truth about his lineage, Estel fled.
He went deep into the wilderness, disappearing into the dark canopy of trees, the one thing that he has ever known as a child. Maybe it was to escape. Maybe it was to hide the truth. Maybe it was just because Estel didn’t want to turn and face reality. All his life, he was just one of the Dunadain. Distant remnants of a once-mighty house, but nothing more. Estel had always pictured his future to be in the northern forests, on scouting trips and the occasional raid on some orc campsite. But never, ever in Gondor. Ever.
Elrond had changed that, in just the blink of an eye. Suddenly, Estel’s world became much, much bigger. A new responsibility rested on his shoulders, reaching far beyond just the Dunadain camp. Far beyond where he had ever traveled. There was always something in his heart, to wake up in a foreign land, to hear languages he didn’t fully understand, to walk by trees and rivers and mountains and canyons that he had never seen before. But now, his lineage bonded him to Gondor. Who knows about Isildur’s Heir? Estel would always have a target on his back. He’d always have to look behind his shoulder, wary of who was near him and what they wanted. Estel would never be the same again. He must always run, escape from the truth about who he was and what it meant.
He shook his head, trying to clear his mind of thoughts. But how does one run from things that are in one’s head?
Nienna mourned for the boy.
Estel sat on the rise of the hill, sheltered by a tree in the afternoon sun. In front of him was the once-great city of Minas Tirith, splendid in its age, its beauty, its wisdom. It was the city on a hill, the bright light. Long ago, people pointed to the Numenoreans in wonder at its glory. But those days were long gone.
The people here knew him as Thorongil. He never once considered telling them his real name. Aragorn. It sounded strange even on his own tongue, foreign and clumsy and…. Not him. Someone that was the opposite of Estel. Like one of the great kings of old. A leader. A visionary. A king. Estel was none of those. Estel was an orphan. He was poor. A child. An insignificant human in a big world. He didn’t belong in great stone halls and grand throne rooms. He belonged in the trees, he belonged in the musty smell of campfires.
Yet he couldn’t bring himself to turn his back. He couldn’t leave. So he introduced himself to Ecthelion as Thorongil. “Eagle of the Star”. He didn’t know why, but the name just seemed right. And it wasn’t until much later that King Elessar found the diaries of Ecthelion and realized that his predecessor had guessed all along. Human Heir of Earendil, the brightest star. Heir of Isildur. But for reasons unknown, King Ecthelion had kept his suspicions quiet.
Estel sat under the tree, smoke wafting in the air from his pipe, looking over the great Minas Tirith. The Tower of Ecthelion, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, banners caught high in the morning breeze. The clear ringing of silver trumpets. The mothers would be soon up, the sounds of windows opening and breakfast. The little children, laughing and playing in the streets as their fathers set up shop in the front. Estel couldn’t help but envy their lives just a little. The same routine every day, nothing changing. Never having to worry about the next orc, or the next raid. Or the next painful truth.
“Aragorn.” Estel tasted the name once more. It was strange. But maybe it wasn’t as alien as it was before. Estel sat by that apple tree that day, taking the day to turn thoughts over in his mind as the rest of the world went along with their daily routines.
Manwe from the heavens looked down at the little figure sitting by a tree. He smiled a sad smile.
Estel arranged his things in his pack, checking over his supplies. Everything was in order, just as it had been the last twenty times he checked it. But something made him restless, making a slight knot in his stomach in trepidation of what was to come. He strode over to his balcony overlooking the magnificent waterfalls of the Last Homely House in Middle-Earth. He ran his callused hands over the balustrades. These were the same ones in his little room in Rivendell for his entire life. This was home. This was what he knew, his familiar place.
And now he might be changing all of that, as soon as he walked out of the front gates of his foster father’s realm. He might never come back. Or at least he may never come back the same. He knew not what to think of this Company of Nine, but there was one thing for sure: This was far beyond just Sauron. There was something about this Quest that made him think that it might just shake the world. But for good or for evil, he knew not.
His mind was so full of uncertainty about the future, about what was to come next. Was everything going to change? What will happen? Why did the burden of the future of the world always seem to chase him, whether it be in the form of a lineage or the guardianship of a little hobbit carrying a big responsibility? Was it a cruel game of the Valar? Or was it a blessing that would one day set him free? Estel had no answers. And somehow, his lack of answers scared him more than the multitude of questions.
So Estel made careful memories of his life. Everything before now. Just in case he would come back changed, one day he could look back and say that this was who he used to be. Playing in the trees with Elladan and Elrohir, his days in the forest, meeting Legolas one fateful day. And most of all, finding Arwen among the flowers and roses as the most beautiful jewel in his world. She was his sunshine, she was his star. The days in the training grounds with Elrond, watching the Dunadan dances and finding himself to be happy. For one day, he may not return as Estel, but as Aragorn.
He would give anything to go back to the way the world was when he was an ignorant boy who didn’t know anything about anyone named Aragorn.
Orome admired the boy’s strength from afar, on his white steed. One day, he thought to himself. One day.
Aragorn sat on the white steps of Minas Tirith, the sound of merry celebrations taking place in all seven levels of the city. Taps flowed freely, happiness took the place of money, and everywhere people looked up and for the first time in months, saw a bright future with the crowning of a new king.
Isn’t it strange that day by day, everything seems the same, but when we turn around to the beginning, nothing is familiar anymore? He thought. Everything is different. And I suppose that the War of the Ring was a cruel blessing. A costly one, he thought, thinking of the memorials that dotted the Fields of the Pelennor. But one that was worth it nonetheless.
Aragorn touched the silver crown on his head, a weight on his head and in his mind. He had always escaped from the truth, but when he finally stopped running and faced it, he realized that the monsters that were chasing him were just trees. And it turned out that the trees were his home. Aragorn smiled slowly as he realized that this whole time, he was running needlessly.
Arwen’s shadow appeared as she leaned on the doorframe behind him. “Aragorn, “she said. “Strange, yet not strange.”
Aragorn laughed. “I’m afraid that Estel is gone.”
Arwen took a seat next to him, leaning her head on his shoulder. “It was time for Aragorn to take the place of Estel.” She laughed. “You couldn’t possibly have thought that you would stay a Ranger your entire life. You were always destined for more than that, Aragorn.”
“You always have to be right, don’t you?” Aragorn teased, turning and kissing her forehead.
“Of course. Especially when it comes to matters such as this.”
Aragorn turned his gaze to the stars, and for the first time since he could remember, he felt peace.
Illuvatar looked down upon the new King of Gondor, and wished him all the happiness in the world.