A lesson in life by Claudia|
Rating : G
No summary given
/Just a few moments, I only have to survive a few more moments.../ For the tenth time Aragorn glanced over to the windows to check if the sun had made enough progress to call an end to the audience.
It was another day at court for him; not that he minded the bit, for it was his duty and his legacy. Yet every time he had to sit through an audience, he reminded himself of the fact that these were his people, and that he was responsible for them.
He shifted his weight a little to get into a more comfortable position on his throne, still silently cursing his ancestor who had built this very, very uncomfortable piece of furniture. Sometimes he thought about replacing this marbled monstrosity with a soft cushioned seat, but never acted on it. Yes, he could do that, he thought grudgingly, for he was king, and his voice was law.
A barely audible cough brought him back to the things at hand, and a quick glance aside showed him that it was Faramir who had gestured as such to get his attention.
Aragorn grinned a bit sheepishly and watched as his steward tried to stifle a laugh.
Aragorn then re-focused his attention on the advisor who stood in front of the stairs and tried to explain why the court should not use this special kind of fabric for the napkins that would be used during banquets for foreign visitors.
As far as he understood, it had something to do with the amount of threads used for the weaving.
That was the moment when he decided that enough was enough.
He rose to his feet and opened his mouth to tell this little paper-shuffler where he could put his stupid napkins, when a commotion at the front door attracted his attention.
Loud voices could be heard from the outside, denying entrance to some one who was obviously very angry. Aragorn thought that he knew the voice which yelled “Let me in!” but he was not sure, because he never had heard it in this volume.
Only moments later the great doors banged open and revealed a struggling mass of guards which tried to restrain a single person.
Aragorn was sure that he was asleep and only dreamed this event, for it could never be that his best friend would fight against his guards to get into the throne room. No, he was definitely asleep; never ever would Legolas lose his composure in such manner that he would bite a guard in his ear to get free; nor would he kick another one in the gut. Aragorn winced with sympathy for the poor guy when the guard went down, groaning and writhing with pain.
A short glance towards Faramir assured him that he really did not dream. For a moment he wondered if Faramir’s jaw would be able to widen even more than it did now. That disbelieving expression on Faramir`s face told him that this was reality, that he really heard his friend yelling at top of his lungs that he would kill that brat, no matter who or what this particular subject of his wrath was.
Aragorn knew he should intervene and try to find out what had made his friend this upset and spare the poor guards some more bruises and strained joints.
Aragorn cleared his throat to get some attention but it failed for no one noticed him. Everyone was watching the fight outside, the advisors with some fear in their eye. Fear? Yes, they were afraid, and he remembered that none of them had ever seen an elf this way. Perhaps they thought that he had gone mad and was about to kill them all.
He made his way down the stairs and when he reached the ground in front of his throne he took a deep breath.
“WHAT IN MORDOR IS GOING ON HERE?!”
Everything stopped: every movement, and even the yelling. With some satisfaction he noticed some of his advisors jump at the sound of his voice. It seemed that time itself has stopped. Frozen in the midst of struggle, the guards looked at their enraged king, still holding the elf at bay.
It might have seemed comical to some to see Legolas this way: one leg outstretched to deliver another kick; but held in place by some guards; hands behind his back, restrained by some others. It nearly looked like some kind of weird dance that was interrupted by the king’s outburst.
For a second their gazes locked. Aragorn swallowed hard when he noticed the rage in his friend’s eyes. He had never seen the elf this furious, except in battle. To see this rage poised towards the guards like this was frightening to see. Maybe Legolas had gone insane.…
No, that could not be...there had to be a reason behind this odd behaviour; a serious reason, and he was determined to find out what had happened.
Certain that he had the full attention of all attendees, Aragorn straightened his pose, tearing his eyes away from his friend and addressing the gathered advisors as if nothing had ever happened. “Leave us. We will finish this later.”
He heard some murmured objections, but not a single one dared to voice them out loud.
/Cowards…./ That was all he thought before he turned his attention back to the occurrence at the door, barely noticing that the advisors bowed and left the room in a rustle of silk and velvet.
“Release him!” Aragorn ordered the guards who still prevented Legolas from entering the throne room.
“I said release him, and leave us alone!” he barked when none of the guards made an attempt to follow his orders at first. He felt a vein in his forehead starting to pound with anger, sensing that he would have a major headache later.
One of the guards approached him cautiously and bowed. Aragorn tried to recall his name, remembering it finally as Tagor, one of the captains of the guard.
“My liege, I’m sorry but I do not think it is wise to release the elf and leave him alone with you.”
Aragorn could feel smoke escaping his ears by hearing this statement, but Faramir was quicker in answering the soldiers.
“Do you have such little faith in your king and I? Do you think that we are not able to defend ourselves against one man if it should deem necessary?” The steward asked with a ting of irritation in his voice.
“I do apologize my lord, but it is my duty to keep you both safe and I do not want to be the one who has to tell the people of Gondor that their king and steward were killed by a mad elf.” Slightly shaking, Tagor looked up and met Faramir’s eyes. The guard knew that he had upset his liege but he would be damned if he would let his attention slip only for a short moment. He would stand his place, even if it would mean that he would lose all that he had worked for in the last 15 years.
But he would never leave his king alone at the mercy of an elf gone mad, not even when this particular elf was a lifelong friend of his liege and the lord of the realm of Ithilien and a trusted advisor to the court. He would stay at his liege’s side, no matter what would come.
A sharp intake of breath brought Tagor’s attention back to his king and he swallowed when he noticed the look in Elessar’s eyes. The king was furious but Tagor could not tell if this rage was pointed towards him or the elf and he did not want to find out if it was the latter.
So he bowed once again to his king before he made an attempt to reason with him. “My liege, please, I do not know what has befallen Lord Legolas, and I do not want you both to be hurt by him. I will order the guards to release him but only if you allow me to stay at your side for the time being, at least until we found out what happened.”
Aragorn knew that he could not win this battle. He knew the stubbornness of his guards when it came to his safety and he somewhat grumpily accepted the “bargain.” He was more than eager to find out what had made his friend lose his temper this way.
Plus, any more discussion would lead to further delay, and he did not want to see his friend longer than necessary in the iron grip of his guards. So, he reluctantly nodded his acceptance, and Tagor signaled his men to release Legolas.
It seemed that the guards were more than relieved to loosen their hold on the prince, judging from the speed they removed their hands from him.
Legolas straightened his tunic and strode into the room with long paces, anger visible in every step he took. He more or less stomped into the hall, lacking all the lightness and grace which always had been in his movements.
Legolas stepped straight up to Aragorn but had to stop when the figure of Tagor went in his line of sight, sword raised and pressed against his chest as a sign of warning.
“Stop here! I will not allow you near the king, as long as you do not calm down.”
Legolas shot him a glance that held more venom then Aragorn had ever expected to see in his friend’s eyes but the guard did not waver; he still stood his ground against the angry elf.
Aragorn took the last step that separated him from the marble tiles. Walking up to the guard he grasped the outstretched hand of Tagor and pressed the blade down until it no longer was pointed at Legolas’ chest.
“It will be all right. Thank you for your concern and your sense of duty, but I have known this elf my whole life and I know that no harm will ever come from him.” Aragorn felt the tension in the guard’s muscles but he was sure that he did the right thing.
For a moment it seemed as if Tagor would not stand back, but then he bowed and stepped aside. Yet he did not sheath his sword nor did he step back too far out of reach.
Aragorn turned his full attention to his friend.
“By the Valar, Legolas, what has happened to you? I have never seen you this enraged.” Aragorn tried to keep his voice steady, but he could not prevent a slight anger creeping into the question.
“What has happened?! You really want to know what happened to me?! I will tell you what happened. Your son happened!” Legolas snapped.
“My son?” Aragorn was confused. What could a fourteen-year-old human possibly to do cross Legolas so that he would lose all decorum and patience?
“Yes, your son... this spoiled little brat you called your son, and the heir of Gondor!”
Legolas growled, shaking with suppressed fury.
“What has my son to do with all of this? You behave like an orc, and you can hardly blame a little boy...”
“ A little boy?” Legolas interrupted him, a thing he rarely did. “A little boy...?!”
“You ... you... you really have no clue what your son is, do you?” Legolas stepped forward and pushed an accusing finger against Aragorn’s chest to emphasize his words, much to the chagrin of Tagor.
The guard did not move, still only watching the exchange with wide eyes. He knew what would come; he had known for a long time that one day something like this would happen, but he had never thought that it would be the elf that would bring the issue to the king.
Tagor really loved his king and would do anything to prevent him from harm but he knew also that his liege was absolutely oblivious when it came to his son.
Now he could understand the elf’s anger and he would wait and see what the brat had done this time.
It must have been worse than any other thing before to leave an enraged elf in its wake.
With some fascination, Tagor watched the face of his liege which grew redder with every passing moment. For a few moments he actually wondered if the king would explode. Nobody had ever told Aragorn about the behaviour of his beloved son.
Tagor thought that maybe it had not been a good idea to stay here after all, but done was done, and now he had to face the consequences of his actions. Sometimes he really cursed his pert mouth and his sense of duty.
Tagor forced his attention back to the two arguing friends, seeing out of the corner of his eyes that Faramir made a strategically retreat from the stairs and sneaked out of one of the back doors. Lucky man; none of the others has noticed his retreat.
With some fascination, Tagor watched the elf pace from one end of the room to the other, telling the king about his wayward son.
“...never ever have you listened to the people who tried to tell you what kind of little evil your son is, have you?” Legolas shot a short glance towards the king.
Seeing only confusion written all over Aragorn’s face, he continued after a deep sigh, “Have you ever wondered why the servants surrounding your precious boy change all the time? The way you look at me right now tells me that you have not noticed it, or you did not want to notice it.
You always think that your son does nothing wrong, but in that sense you are wrong. He treats everyone like they are worthless and exist only to entertain him and bow at his commands.”
“Wait a second!” Aragorn interrupted his friend. “Are you telling me that I did not raise my son well? Is that what you want to tell me with this tirade of you? Are you accusing me of being a bad father?” Aragorn yelled this last question.
Legolas has calmed down somewhat since he finally had the chance to tell his friend what had occurred during the last years. He chided himself for not doing it much earlier, but, like all the others, he had been sure that the boy would come after his father, a gentle, strong and caring person, and that his current behaviour was only a stage of his development.
He stopped his pacing in front of the king and locked eyes with him.
“Mellon, I would never accuse you of something, and you know that, but you have been so engrossed in all the matters of the state that you barely have time for your family.
It is time now for you to open your eyes and see what your son does to the people around him.”
“I do not believe you; you have no proof for what you told me. My son is not bad and he is well-raised and educated, and....”
“No, he is not....” With a sigh Legolas steeled himself for what he has to tell his friend.
He squared his shoulders and started to fill Aragorn in the story of his son.
“You have no clue what all this is about, but I think it is high time that someone tells you that your son is not the little sweet boy you take him for. On the contrary, to be honest, most of the servants loath to be near him. He treats them not better than you would treat a worm and I have the strong believe that you would even treat a worm better.”
Legolas raised a hand to prevent Aragorn from interrupting him.
“No, let me finish, then we can talk. Since the day of his birth, your son was the most precious thing to you, Arwen, the people of Gondor, and I have to admit, to myself too. But things have changed, Aragorn; they have changed a lot since those days. I know that it was easy to love him, for he was a very charming little boy, and around you and Arwen he still acts the same. But around other people he is much different.”
Legolas sighed, continuing, “He destroyed other childrens’ toys only because they did not want to give them to him as a gift. He said, ‘what he could not have, others should not have too.’ Have you never thought about why he won every game the children played? No? Because every time he lost, he would beat the others. No, before you ask, he has never done it before my eyes, but I hear a lot of rumours when I’m down in the city, and there are few children left who want to play with him. But he treats adults in no different way. Do you know that he started to order the servants that they should not only bow before him? No, he wants them on their knees. Last week I overheard a conversation between two of the maidens who are responsible for his room. One told the other that he threw a bowl at her head when she turned her back to him to leave his room. He yelled at her that no one should turn his or her back towards him.”
Legolas continued, “Aragorn, he is 14 years old. This is not the behaviour of a child anymore. It is the behaviour of a tyrant, and I fear the day when he should become king and nobody had the courage to rein him in when there was still a chance to turn him to the better.
He plays with people like a little girl who plays with her puppets. He plays with them until he does not want to play anymore, and then he throws them away. You can not allow him to play with human beings like that. By the Valar, he even plays with you and Arwen, for both of you are blinded by your love for him. He has wrapped you around his little finger and you do not even know it.”
Legolas finished, “I know that you did your best, but nobody is a natural born father. Aragorn, you have to learn how to teach your son the proper behaviour of a king and what it means to be a leader. Do you remember what your father, Elrond, used to say?
`In learning you will teach and in teaching you will learn.…´
Never forget that, and try to find your own way of teaching and learning. But you have to do it fast, for there is not much time left before your son will be too old.”
Legolas’ shoulders dropped, when the cooped-up tension left his body. It was as if his speech had drained him of all energy. The elf felt tired, but he was glad that he had finally found the courage to tell his friend what had been long overdue.
The silence descended heavily around them while Aragorn stood rooted at his place and tried to digest what he had heard these last minutes.
Yes, he had noticed the odd behaviour of the servants and other people around his son, but he had never spent a thought about it; he always told himself that it was only that people still had to get used to the idea of having an heir to the throne.
He refused to acknowledge this. It had to be a misunderstanding, but Legolas would not lie to him. He had never lied to him in the past and he knew that the elf only meant the best for him, his family and people.
Yet it had to be a judgment error; maybe Legolas had misinterpreted the things he had heard; maybe the people had talked about some other child. It could not be that his only son was this cruel and bigheaded. Yet deep down in his heart, he knew that it had to be the truth. He berated himself for not being able to see behind the façade of his cheerful little boy.
He felt sorry for all the children and servants who had been mistreated by his son.
But something was wrong; he felt it now. It was not only what had happened to the people that had made Legolas so upset, so there had to be something more.
With a heavy heart, Aragorn looked up from the floor and met the eyes of his friend.
“What has he done to you? And do not tell me that it was nothing; for you would never storm into a meeting and lose your composure like you have today if it had been `nothing.´”
This time it was Legolas who looked down to the floor for some moments, before he answered Aragorn. His voice was so low that Aragorn had to strain his ears to understand him.
“HE DID WHAT? You can’t be serious, he would not do such a thing to you, as he knows who you are and what you are.”
“But he did, Aragorn, and I think that was the final straw to all the things he had done previous. Usually it does not matter what he says to me, I can live with that. But after he stole one of Gimli’s axes to give it to one of the carpenters to use it for chopping wood, I went to him to tell him what he did and that I wanted him to apologize for stealing the battle axe of a dwarf.”
Aragorn closed his eyes; he wanted to shut out the reality and remain in his realm of happiness and the belief that his son was worth his admiration.
“You have known me for a long time, Aragorn, and you know that I have lived with the insults of the dwarf for a long time. I can even handle the suspicions which some of your people still have against my people. But hearing your son say that I should kneel before him before I’m allowed to talk to him and let him call me worthless Sindar, and that I should return to my woods to jump from tree to tree like the little monkey I am, well, that was enough. I do not know where these words came from; I do not know if he has heard them from other people and to be honest, I do not care. It hurt... it hurt so much to hear this insults coming from one of the people I cherish, and I could not bear it any longer.”
Legolas sighed deeply. “I’m sorry for embarrassing you in front of your court, but I could not handle it any longer. Please forgive me.”
Aragorn was at the elf’s side with two long strides and embraced him.
“There is nothing to forgive my friend; I am the one who should apologize for not being able to see through all of this. These events should have never happened, and I will see to it that Eldarion will apologize to you, and I promise that I will find a way to teach him a lesson he will never forget. And I will make sure that he learns what it means to be a king.”
Determined, Aragorn continued, “My son will learn that life is not only fun and games and that things will not always go to his liking. I will teach him that losing is part of life as well as winning, and that winning is not the only thing that is worth to be proud of. I will teach him that only the one who can lose and still holds his head up knows what life is about. I promise you that he will learn what it means to work for his meals and what it means to be a servant to others.”
Aragorn released his friend out of his bear hug and looked him in the eyes.
“Come on now, let’s see if Gimli has found out what has happened to his axe and if he has found out, if my son is still alive. I really hope he is, because I want to teach him a lesson of life.”
Aragorn turned to Tagor and the captain wished instantly he was in another place.
“Tagor, I think you are one of those who knew all of this and did not tell me either, right?” Tagor had the grace to blush, but before he could answer, Aragorn continued.
“I want you to prepare two horses, but buy them in the city instead of using some out of our stables. See to it that they are well fed, for they will need all the strength for the journey they will make in a few days.”
Tagor bowed and left the throne room, pondering about the strange request his king had made, but then again, who was he to question the decisions of his liege?
None of them noticed the small figure who had watched the whole events hidden behind one of the huge pillars of the hall. Eldarion waited until his father and the elf had left the room too before he left his hideout to head for his own rooms. He did not know what his father would do to him, but according to the “punishments” he had received over the years it could not be that bad. He smirked and thought about the bet he would win this evening. He was sure to win, for no one dared to win a bet against him.
*some days later*
“FATHER, I WILL NOT GO!” Eldarion yelled. The boy sat sulking in the chair in front of his father’s desk, arms crossed in front of his chest.
“Oh yes my son, you will go and you will leave this afternoon. It is time for you to learn how to behave and I know no better way than send you out to live like the people around us. You will go to Rohan and you will work there in whatever profession King Éomer will see fit. He and his wife will be the only ones to know who and what you are, so do not try to pull rank to others. Believe me, I will find out.”
Eldarion opened his mouth to snap back but he closed it without uttering a single word when his father’s fist connected with the table top.
“Not a word; I do not want to hear another objection from you! I talked to a lot of people these past few days and I have learned a lot more about you than I wanted to learn. I am ashamed of you and your behaviour. You will learn that you cannot treat people like you did in the past. This will end, and it will end today. Before you leave, I want you to attend to the audience this morning and I want you to apologize to the people of Gondor for your rude behaviour. Then you will leave and you will not return before one year is over. If I hear that you have not changed I will not hesitate extend this little trip.”
Eldarion was at the brink of tears, for never before had his father spoken to him this way. But then again, before all of this his father had not known what he had done. He dared not to look up from his lap. The last thing he wanted to see was that his father hated him.
As if Aragorn has read his thoughts the boy felt a pair of strong arms wrapping around his frame. “Do not get me wrong, Eldarion, I love you, we all love you, but you have to learn that life is not only fun and games and you cannot do everything you want to, or treat people like they are your possession. On the contrary, you owe these people and not the other way round. As a king you are a servant to the people of your country, and you my son, have to learn how to serve.”
Aragorn got up from his knees and took the boy’s hand. “Come on, let’s have breakfast and then you can go and pack your things.”
Later that day Aragorn and Arwen watched from the gates as the silhouette of their son and his companion disappear in the distance. “May the Valar protect you, my child,” Arwen whispered, tears running freely down her face.
Aragorn wrapped his left arm around her shoulders and hugged her tightly. “He will return, Méleth, and he will be stronger than he is now. This is best for him, believe me.”
“I know, but it is hard to see him leave, Estel, for he is our only child.”
“It was necessary, but I know that no harm will befall him. Tagor will make sure of this. He is a strong warrior, and he will protect Eldarion with his life.” Aragorn tightened his embrace. “Come, let’s go back.”
It was more than two years later when they finally could welcome their son back into their life. Not because the boy had not changed, but because Eldarion himself had wanted to stay for longer. He had learned to love the simple life, and he enjoyed the unexpected freedom that came with the loss of his home and name.
It had taken some time but he had learned the lessons of life, and he never again treated another being like he had done as a child. He even joined the rangers on their journeys through middle-earth when he came out of childhood, and for some years he was only known as Heledir the ranger, always accompanied by his friend Tagor, before he followed his father’s footsteps to take on the throne of Gondor.