Joker 2018


Picture Challenge III



Five Ingredients II




Picture Challenge II


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Life and Death













Out of Place

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Alphabet Story



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What If ...?

One Title: Your Story

A Fairy Tale, Middle-Earth style

Games People Play

Friends in Small Places

A man for all to see by Aragornwriter

Games People Play
Rating: G
Story: A lonely man walks the mountain barefoot, not knowing who he is and where he came from.
Disclaimer: Tolkien created Lord of the Rings. I wrote this story for the fic challenge “Games People Play”. Extra assignment was to use a part of the lyrics of the song ‘Son of Man’ by Phil Collins. Instead of using only the assigned part, I used the entire lyrics as a source of inspiration.

Oh, the power to be strong; and the wisdom to be wise
 All these things will come to you in time
on this journey that you’re making; there’ll be answers that you’ll seek
And it’s you who’ll climb the mountain; it’s you who’ll reach the peak

Son of man, look to the sky. Lift your spirit, set it free.
Some day you’ll walk tall with pride; Son of man, a man in time you’ll be

though there’s no one there to guide you, no one to take your hand
But with faith and understanding, you will journey from boy to ma

In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn
you’ll find your place beside the ones you love
Oh, and all the things you dreamed of, the visions that you saw
well, the time is drawing near now, it’s yours to claim in all

Son of man,
Son of man’s a man for all to see
A man for all to see
Part One
The stones felt hot underneath his bare soles. Their sharp edges hurt his toes, scraped his skin off and left blisters that would cause any living soul – man or child – to wince aloud.
Yet he could not feel it, for the pain did not reach into the very heart of him, keeping his physical form oblivious to any hurt.
Trapped as he was in his own thoughts, he had no idea of where he was, what he was doing there and why he felt so warm, and uncomfortable. He did not know if he had ever felt this bad before, but believed that it may be one of the worst times of his life nonetheless.
Unlike the ache of the blistering feet, the day’s heat touched him eventually, affecting him and weakening him. The sun was merciless. Not a cloud touched the skies. All birds had stopped singing and hid for the heat; the wild animals roaming the desert mountain had taken shelter or were searching for water and juicy foods. He had none of those. No flask of water to hold in his hands, no remains of a rabbit to devour.
What he was heading for, he did not know. He just knew that he was very thirsty, very hungry and very tired.
The sun held no mercy for him, even though he was human and a man of some importance. It burned down on him, scorching his body where the hot beams could reach the bare skin, and leaving him uncomfortably warm where it could not. His clothes were dark and thus attracted the warmth more. His hair was as black as his clothes, dishevelled and dirty from sand fluttering on every single strand that now stuck to the back of his neck. He was sunburned, and a headache ached and pounded and reminded him of pain after all.
His face was scraped and scratched. His chin held a two-day old beard above the unshaven skin he always had. It had been a long time since his last encounter with water. He smelled, he knew. But he could not recall the last time he had had a bath or washed his face. Perhaps it had only been only two days ago; perhaps a year.
He did not know when he had last been inside a house or an Inn. When he had last eaten a warm meal and drunk ale or beer.
All he knew was that he was climbing a mountain. It was the only thought that rushed through his mind, leaving no place for anything else. His spirit had no place right now in his body; it was confused and did not hold the ropes with which to lead the walking form. It was the body that just kept on walking, and walking. It had nothing else to do.
He tripped several times and fell forward onto his knees and hands, scraping the palms until they bled. Dirt lingered underneath his fingernails, as did little particles of stone and grind. He lived solely on survival instinct, searching for a shelter – a small cave or cavern – to protect him against the sun.
Had he looked behind him, he would have known that far beneath him were the desert grounds that had claimed many lives before. It would have cost him half a day to return down there, for descending was far easier than ascending. He sensed though that death waited for him down there; that perhaps his days were numbered. He was not eager and willing to turn and move into in that direction.
He just walked upwards.
No thoughts came from his wounded soul; no life could be drawn from him. Had someone spoken to him, they would have received a confused answer.
He just walked..
Finally he reached what he had been searching for: A small shelter. It was a cavern so tiny that he literally had to crawl in and lie down in order not to bump his head against its rocky ceiling . He slid in on his side and lay like that for a while, finally losing the battle against the darkness that had threatened to claim him for a long time.
After a while, when nightfall came, he woke. The sun had left the earth and was slowly being replaced by an early moon that would then become complete and take over the night as it always did. Those were the laws of nature. More merciful than the sun, the moon lit the world in its full force without chasing away all of the darkness; yet it did not scorch or kill.
He felt grateful for nightfall, realizing he did not feel afraid of it like many did. The darkness was linked to death and danger for many but not to him.
He carefully crawled out of the cave and stood, weak and still famished and thirsty. He stretched his back and overlooked the stars, the mountain, and the desert so far below that he could barely see it. Perhaps it was his eyes playing tricks on him, for he would not have been able to see much without a hawk’s eyes.
It almost felt as if he were alone in this world. Then, as if his questions had been answered, a wolf howled in the far distance. The sound, as distressing as it might have been to many, delivered a smile onto his face.
He was not alone after all.
The thought gave him new hope. Carefully he sat down and touched his feet, unable to see much more than darker shades on lighter skin. The shades came from blisters his earlier walk had caused. Now that he sat, the pain came stronger and more powerful, as if to remind him of what he had done to his poor feet. He rubbed them gently, hoping to ease the pain thus. Why was he barefoot?
He prodded both feet and knew he needed something to heal them with. Herbs, that was what he needed. Athelas, or a painkilling plant that could numb the ache. He could never find those in the darkness though. Then he frowned. Heal his feet? How did he know he had the ability to do as much?
The questions made him let go of his feet and think of his situation. He had to start remembering things: Small things perhaps that could aid him in realizing who he was, and why he had come to be here.
His name. What was his name? He tried to think of that question, to seek the answer that lingered deep inside of his mind. He did not have the answer. He did not know. He could not remember what he looked like, or what race he was from.
Was he human? Elf?
Did Elves have such large, sturdy feet? Did they possess such scraped hands with dirty fingernails? Never. Did they possess the ability to have beards? No, they did not have scruffy chins. Perhaps he was a Dwarf. Nay, not a Dwarf. For that, he stood too tall above the ground. And his feet were too large. If only he had a mirror or a lake or river to look into. Perhaps, if he saw his face, he could recall who he was.
He looked at his hands. On his left hand, first finger, lingered a beautiful ring; a special ring that seemed very important to him. He took it off and stared at it, admiring its beauty and form. He felt naked without it. Quickly he put it back on and stared at it once more. Even in the dark he could see the serpents clearly. It was an heirloom.
The thought made him feel pleased. So, he knew that he must be a part of an important family. Royal family perhaps, for only royalty would wear such rings with pride. But then why was he dressed in such clothing? It did not feel royal at all. And why would he be here up a mountain alone? Why would nobody be by his side to protect him against any enemies?
The idea filled him with sudden fear. What if there were enemies lingering about? What if he had been hurt by beasts or Orcs who had fought against him and had sent him into the wilds alone, thinking he would die for certain? Why had they kept him alive then in the first place? Or had he escaped them, fleeing them when they thought he had already perished?
His hands instinctively sought for weapons but he could find none. If someone came now to slay him, he would certainly not live. And he would leave behind someone. He sensed that. He could not die, for there was someone who loved him.
But who?
Who was it that felt so important to him? If only he could remember!
Upset and angry at himself, he crawled against the cave’s rocky outer wall and buried his face in his hands, trying to recapture the essence of himself. He had to recall who he was. It felt too important.
Perhaps, if he could retrace his steps, he might remember, though. He just had to make it off the mountain and retrieve traces of himself so he could find out what had happened to him. He sighed, for even the full moon could not show him enough to take him back where he had started. He would have to wait until early morning.
Until that time, he would also have to suffer from hunger and thirst. Up the mountain he would not be able to find food or drink. He would not be able to survive here for more than a few days. But for the night, he knew he was not in mortal danger. He could easily go without food for days, but he did not remember how he knew that. He did not even know how long he had not eaten, yet his stomach rumbled as if it had been forever.
He wished for his situation to be easier but did not feel any panic whatsoever. He was calm, almost peaceful with himself. It felt as if he belonged here, strangely enough. He wanted to be up this mountain, in the silence of the wilderness that formed his surroundings. He was happy here.
Carefully he crawled back into his cave and laid himself to rest, this time lying on his back as he stared at the rocky surface. The moonlight lit the cave just enough to allow him to see the many lines and sharp small parts that had formed this natural shelter over the course of decades. This world was beautiful.
With that thought in mind, he fell asleep. The wolf hauled once more and left for her pack, abandoning him with nothing but silence to keep him company.
Early morning came soon, as the sun once more brightened the world. This time however she was not burning, destructive. She was calm and peaceful as if she knew that one of the inhabitants of this world needed her to be gentle.
He woke with the first beams on his face, at first not knowing where he was. Then he remembered. He stretched out his arms and his hands touched the rocks above him, finding them cool. He had not felt cold overnight, and even the thirst and hunger had gone.
He still did not remember who he was. He crawled out of his shelter and stretched his body, cracking both his shoulders and knees until everything seemed right back in place. His back felt slightly sore from the hard surface on which he had lain. Yet he felt rested and well. Even his feet did not hurt that much.
He looked up to the skies and saw that he was very close to the mountain’s top. He only had one yard to climb. It was within his reach. He did not know why it felt so important to him, but he had to follow that trail further, before heading downward again. Aye, that was what he had to do! Go up first, see the world from the mountain’s peak and then return to where he came from.
He set about his plan immediately, remembering what he had wanted to do the night before. He sat down and tore rags off his trousers, baring the lower half of his legs in the process. He wrapped his feet carefully; paying extra attention to the blisters that ached but felt strangely at ease inside the rags’ bandage.
Cautiously he set one foot down. It felt warm but well. The other foot followed. A slight hurt was felt where the largest blister had formed, but the foot felt good enough to be used. Determinedly he moved forward, going up the hill. It was not a large mountain, he saw as he looked about him before grabbing a bush to pull himself upwards. It was one he knew. He had been here before in different circumstances, a very, very long time ago.
I came here to fulfil a promise.
Within mere moments he reached the top. There he stood and allowed the sun to warm him. Still she was not hot and she would not be all day, for it was a cloudy day and soon the rain would start to pour down and take away most of the heat scorching this part of Middle-Earth for so many days already.
He looked downward and thought he saw her. It was his imagination only of course, for he could never see her from such a distance, but it did not matter. She was in his mind’s eye nonetheless.
He felt liberated. He stretched out his hands and raised his arms and laughed. He had reached it!
Slowly the memories returned. At first one, then a few more and then some. He had to go down now, to the one he loved. She would be waiting for him.
He walked. He was a careful hunter, a tracker by nature. He knew where to go and what to follow. His own trail had been left very openly on the mountain: Traces of blood and a path of bare feet crawling over rocks and sandy parts, bushes and smaller pebbles. It was easy. He knew he had been lucky, for a wolf could have easily found and devoured him.
All the while, the memories came flooding back, taking him and embracing him. He knew who he was, what the ring on his finger represented and why he had been on that mountain barefoot. What made him go all the way up and stand on its top, staring over the world like a king.
He did it because it was his. Some day it would be his.
With every new memory he started walking faster and faster. He did not need to follow the trail of his own footsteps any longer, and it was a good thing too. For, as if the skies themselves had been waiting for his memories, they opened their canals and started to flood the mountain and the desert.
Streams of rain poured down on him, embracing him. He laughed and let the rain enter his mouth, moisten his tongue and throat and lips. It felt so good! He could have fallen on the ground in an attempt to thank the Valar for their pity. But he just kept on walking, tripping and almost running until the mountain’s edge came in sight and he could set his first footstep on the sandy – now muddy – surface.
Then he ran. He no longer cared if the blisters opened and puss came dripping out. He no longer cared that his feet were bare and protected only by the rags torn off his trousers. He did not care that he had not eaten and drunk in a day’s time.
He just ran.
The rain darkened the world but it did not prevent him from seeing her.
There she stood, like a bright sight for sore eyes, waiting for his return. She was soaking wet; her clothes clung to her beautiful forms and showed her female forms. She was beautiful!
He cried out to her and ran even faster during that last part, until he finally had her in his arms and made her even wetter when he pressed his body against hers. “I made it,” he whispered into her ear, kissing her face all over. “I made it! And I missed you. Oh, how I have missed you.”
“And I have missed you,” she replied gently, touching his face. “How I feared you would not make it. And yet, how I always knew that you would. I had no doubts.”
“I would never leave you,” he said, touched by emotions, kissing her tenderly as he felt her hair and her facial forms and knew everything about himself again. They belonged together and always had. He would give up the world for her.
“Where is he?” the man asked finally, looking around him. “I thought he was here?”
From behind her, a small form looked up at the man with the bare feet and the dishevelled, torn clothing. The small boy then pulled on his father’s trousers to seek attention. The man reached down and lifted the child into his arms, pressing him between his mother and him. The child cried in pure happiness.
“My son,” Arathorn, son of Arador of the Dúnedain said. “My dear, beloved son. How I have missed you too.”
Aragorn, barely two years of age but wise for his years like all of the Dúnedain, clung to his father and whispered, “Father, I caught a rabbit today!” He spoke rapidly for his age and already knew about the hunts, the Orcs and all the fun things one did when chasing rabbits.
Arathorn smiled and winked at his wife who rolled her eyes and just smiled back mockingly, not replying to her son’s bragging. “Congratulations, my boy,” Isildur’s heir spoke. “You will be a great warrior one day.”
“Like you, Father?”
“Like all of your ancestors.”
Arathorn embraced his wife and son once more and brought them to the party of Rangers who had come to wait for his return. He did not believe he had ever felt more content in his life. He could not care less for all the ordeals he had put himself through voluntarily. It all came down to this very moment, to this second where he knew he was finally worthy to step into his ancestors’ footsteps.
They packed up later that day when the rain had passed and clouds were drifting off. Gilraen watched her husband and knew he had changed. He was calmer now; more content. He had not looked this way since the day he married her, three years ago. It had been the happiest years of her life as their wedding was almost immediately followed by the conception of Aragorn.
That was what the mountain did to a person, she knew. She had heard all the stories of the Dúnedain and their personal quest to overtake the mountain and claim it as theirs. How folly they were, she thought nonetheless, to challenge nature so vulnerably. No food or water were permitted, and no shoes. They had to walk the way barefoot and back. And they all changed overnight, becoming stronger than ever.
Proudly Gilraen touched her husband’s hand and the ring on his finger. Their son slept, for he had not done so in almost two days, and was unaware of their presence in the tent. They could have been slaughtering an oliphaunt next to him and he still would not have awoken.
She did not speak a word but Arathorn knew what she was feeling. “I know,” he said, “for I feel it too. We have finally come where we always wanted to be. We are free spirits, my love. Now and forever. We shall never be parted. We shall overwin everything.”
As they prepared to mount the horses to ride to Rivendell and meet up with their old friend Elrond and his twin sons, Arathorn said, “Let us tread carefully today and for all days to come. I want to see my son old enough to follow in my footsteps and go up that mountain. He deserves this, for it will form him as it has formed me today and my forefathers before me.”
“Always,” Gilraen vowed, grasping her husband’s hand. “We shall always stay together.”
She did not know that it would be the last day of his life. None of them knew, except for Arathorn, who had sensed it when he was walking up that mountain. Yet they could not have known that they rode straight into a trap, on the path of death that would mean the end of Arathorn, son of Arador of the Dúnedain.
But it would not be the end for his son.
Part 2
Carefully Aragorn placed his feet down and winced slightly. He had not expected the rocks to be this sharp. Then again, he had never walked barefoot before on such a trail. It was part of the task, of what he had to do for the coming two days. Go up the mountain, reach the top, claim the undefined throne of the mountain’s peak and go downward to the ones who waited and loved him. He had not been told to be here; he had come voluntarily. So he should not complain, he knew.
His heart went out to his wife, knowing that she would not rest easily for the next two days. “Let someone come with you,” she had begged. “If only to watch over you.”
“I will be well,” he had replied, cupping her face in care. “My ancestors will watch over me. I must do this alone, my love.”
She had not replied but he knew that she thought the act was foolish. She did not yet grasp the extent of the walk but she would once he returned to her.
She would not be the only one waiting down there. They would all be there, watching him fulfil a vow he had made many years ago. He had no memories of his early life years except for one when he was only two and knew nothing of the world except the presence of his almighty father. His mother, beautiful and strong as she was, stood strongly by her husband’s side yet she too was overshadowed by him, as anyone was. A father, who was suddenly torn away from them and killed by monsters that Aragorn would later on fight for the better part of his life.
How he had loved and missed his father over all these years. How he had yearned to have the support of the man who had given him life, only to be taken away so roughly and uselessly shortly after. His father’s death was not meaningless for it had saved his wife and child, but it had happened too quickly for all parties concerned.
Aragorn never learned of his heritage through Arathorn’s words, nor did he become a Ranger thanks to him. All of that and more he had to experience on his own account years after and it had cost him many heartaches and troubles. For years, Aragorn had not known where he belonged. He had become a solemn man with only a few friends he trusted enough and loyally.
How different his life would have been had Arathorn lived longer than the first two years of his son’s existence. How different it would have been to have a human father who could have prepared him better for what was to come. What a difference that father figure would have made.
And yet, he could not think that way. He could not remorse a life he had never known. For, not so far from the hill and past the desert and the woods had once lived Lord Elrond, the father who had taken him in as his own and sheltered and protected him. Elrond had now left Rivendell to move on to the Undying Lands, but not before wishing his human son well. If it had not been for him, Gilraen would not have been able to protect her son against all the dangers of Middle-Earth. She would have seen her son lost to the world as well.
How could he then remorse what he had never known?
Yet he did. He regretted not knowing if he had his father’s character or appearance; if he hunted like him; loved like him; made choices like him.
Today, he would know.
Aragorn’s feet made determined steps as he moved further up the mountain, knowing exactly where he was heading and why. He was here for a reason, for a quest he should have made a very long time ago.
He had heard of his father’s story: Of how Arathorn’s first day up the mountain had been peaceful and fast, setting a quick pace that would bring him to the top in a day and a half. And then, at the end of the first night, he had tripped and fallen. Just a minor trip it was, one that hurt his ankle only slightly, yet sent him off reeling to the ground, hitting a rock with the side of his head and knocking the wind right out of him. When he came to, Arathorn could not remember who and where he was, and what his purpose was. But somehow, despite the odds, he had climbed further up the hill and reached the top. It had taken him two days to do so, but he made it on sheer willpower and an urge to remember who he was.
That was the courage that Aragorn wanted to thrive on when he set out to fulfil his vow. He was twenty and had just learned that he was Isildur’s Heir when his mother first told him the tales of the mountain; of how all of his ancestors had once climbed that hill barefoot as a token to humanity that they were strong warriors, rightful kings who could control the world as they controlled the physical pain they voluntarily caused to themselves. It was a duty that Elendil had set out to do as the first of the bloodline. He had been the first, challenging and winning over the mountain at the age of twenty. Isildur had done the same long before he betrayed his kin and humanity.
And Isildur’s son had done it, continuing the tradition when the bloodline slowly deteriorated and the family fell apart from pure embarrassment and pain at Isildur’s betrayal. And his son did it after that, and after that – until Aragorn became the last of his line and was not able to speak with his father over the appeal of the mountain. All he knew was that he listened to Gilraen’s tale in awe and vowed to climb the mountain one day himself.
His father had been older than most of his ancestors when he did it. Over the years Arathorn had thought about it, apparently, but never executed it. Until one day he had woken up, turned to his wife by his side and told her that he was going to do it. Sadly Gilraen realized afterwards that Arathorn must have felt it was his last chance to do so. He had always had a sense of death, a premonition of when it was going to happen. And he wanted to make his little boy oh so proud before he had to leave him.
When he learned the tale of the mountain, Aragorn vowed to honor his father this way. Only, it had never happened.
As the years passed, Aragorn never made it back to that place where his father had spent his last day, barefoot and wounded. Yet it was only half a day’s ride away from Rivendell and it was a mountain that he could have challenged years ago. He just never wanted to, afraid that he would not be able to reach the mountain top and so dishonor his father’s memory. With all the concerns that already troubled his heart, Aragorn could not bring himself to conquer the peak.
And he grew up as an Elf’s adopted son, fell in love, and became a Ranger and then a King. He had a family of his own now, and a son he wanted to honor more than anything. A son he wanted to show what their family was about; what it meant to honor certain rituals from the past.
So one day Eldarion had sat by his father’s side and asked to be told of the human family he had never known. It was at that moment that Aragorn told him the tale of the mountain, watching Eldarion raise his head expectedly to ask if he too had climbed its peak. It was then that Aragorn knew that he had to go. It was now or never. He did not just owe it to his son but to his father as well.
“I will go,” he vowed and took his son in his arms. “I will go and you will be there to see it.”
Arwen had shaken her head sadly, “Games people play. What folly is this? Why do you feel the need to prove yourself when you have your throne and your history?”
“It is not about honor for my people, but honor for my father,” Aragorn had said. “I will go. Then I shall be at peace.”
“If you make it up and down the hill in one piece.”
“I shall,” Aragorn smiled, and the memory of his father returning in the rain was so vivid that it could have happened when he was thirty, not two. It was the last true memory he had of him. That, and the sight of his death. He was there when Arathorn fell and it had clouded his childhood.
Aragorn left barefoot and waved goodbye to his family and friends as he started crawling up the mountain, taking it easy yet holding a steady pace. Soon he could no longer see them. They remained below in the desert, setting up camp and talking about useless things as they tried to conceal their worries. It was a hard task; one not to be taken for granted.
But Aragorn climbed. He climbed until he could no longer feel the stinging pain in his feet. He had no water or food, nothing to aid him but his own willpower. It would have to suffice. He would not go under as none of his ancestors had done so. Soon though, he could feel the merciless sun burning down on him and his heart pounded like it had never pounded before.
By the end of the first day he was beat. He felt he could no longer proceed but he did it nevertheless. He continued to walk until the night fell and he was left alone. By that time his feet were a raw mass of flesh and torn skin. He knew that he lived on sheer willpower alone, wondering many times what he was doing to himself.
Yet every time he considered failing, he saw his father before his eyes, as if to push him forward. Now he knew what Arathorn looked like: The resemblance was stunning. He might have been hallucinating perhaps, but it did not matter.
Overnight he slept on the rocky surface hearing nothing but a distant howl. Early morning he continued to climb again, remembering how his father had tripped and lost his memories. He was sure not to experience the same. He was careful and used his hands to support himself many times on the rocks and larger pebbles. He could no longer feel his feet and felt fear that he might never make it down the hill, should he even make it to the top first.
Halfway up he stopped and bandaged the feet with rags torn from his clothing. He continued to walk then, feeling the heat simmering on him, taking away his strengths quickly. He fell a few times, half-awake, half-unconscious. He walked again then. And again. He had visions, stretching his hands out to them as if to grasp them. His hands always came back empty.
And as he looked up, the top was in sight. He would reach it at nightfall, but did not know if he could make it. Dusk was already setting in. Soon he would start tripping over rocks and he would fall like his father and not remember. He could not afford to take that risk.
He stopped at a small cave suddenly, staring into it. Some strange sense came over him. His heart pounded in excitement. Was this the cavern his father had lain in? Was it the cavern that had saved his life? He crawled inside carefully and rolled to his back, staring up at the rocky surface, touching it cautiously with both hands. He could almost feel Arathorn’s presence. Some of his spirit had been left behind for his son to find.
Aye, this is where he had been. He could feel it underneath his hands, placing them exactly where his father’s had been exactly a hundred years ago to the day. This was Aragorn’s token of remembrance; the reason why he had walked up the hill yesterday and today.
“Father,” he whispered for nobody but a spirit to hear. “Father, I have come for you. Fill me with your memories and let me know what it was like to be you.”
No answer came. If there was a spirit here, it did not reply. Perhaps it could not, for most souls lost their voice when they perished and were unable to seek contact with those they had left behind.
Aragorn shut his eyes and felt hot tears roll down his cheeks. He wept then as he rolled to his side and curled into a ball and became that two-year old child again who could not remember his father clearly.
He cried for a father he had never known, a man who had lost his life too soon. He had never wept for his father before, but today he did, releasing emotions he did not even know he had. He wept, for no one could bring Arathorn closer to him. He seemed within his reach, yet he was still far away.
A strange sense of contentment overwhelmed him. Aragorn wiped his tears and smiled. He had not climbed the mountain to reach its top; he had climbed it to end up in this cavern, to feel the lingering presence of his father. All the rest did not matter. It did not matter if he would never stand on its peak to overlook the world. It did not matter that his feet still bled and ached, and if he never walked again should they be ruined forever. Here, inside this cavern, was the soul of Arathorn, father of Aragorn. Here was where he was meant to be tonight.
Aragorn finally fell asleep, comforted by a strange sense of belonging. If there were days that he felt happier than today, they were scarce. His coronation, his marriage and the birth of his son had been such days.
This day made a fantastic day.
In the morning the first sunlight woke him. Refreshed and almost happy, the King re-bandaged his feet and stood, staring at the top. He had to go there now, he knew, for his father would have wanted that. He could not give up now, not when he was this close to the top. He climbed further and further until he was on the mountain peak and shut his eyes, allowing the sun to drift over him and warm him.
He sat down and turned his face to the sun. When he looked up, he saw shapes in the clouds. They seemed to be there only for him, covering the sun’s heat so that the journey home would not be so rough.
He had come home.
Hours later, when he made it down the hill and was greeted by those he loved, Aragorn embraced his wife and son, thinking he could never be any happier. Their bodies pressed against his, their arms were wrapped around him, their touch of joy and love made it all worthwhile. Today, a hundred years ago, his father had died. But he could not feel sad anymore. He would no longer reminisce the past.
“You made it,” Arwen whispered gently, touching her husband’s worn face. “How I feared your feet would no longer carry your weary body.”
“My father would have if they had failed me,” Aragorn spoke.
And suddenly Arwen understood why her husband had taken up the ‘Game’ his ancestors had started. She had never seen him with more ease. He had become a different man, one who had finally seen it all and knew that he was happy.
She nodded quietly, gently. He squeezed her hand and looked over her shoulder at the friends who had come to see him return. They surrounded the couple and congratulated him.
Eldarion finally moved into his father’s sight, eager to be heard. Aragorn smiled as his son wrapped himself around his father’s leg and spoke, “In twenty years, I will do the same, Father! Then I shall be the King of the mountain.”
Aragorn knew that he would not fail. For Eldarion too belonged to the long line of Kings who had come, conquered and became a man for all to see.
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