All That Matters by Adonnen Estenniel|
Summary: Aragorn has given much for duty and responsibility, but there is one thing that he will not let fade into darkness and oblivion.
“Many others of Elrond’s household stood in the shadows and watched them go, bidding them farewell with soft voices. There was no laughter, and no song or music. At last they turned away and faded silently into the dusk.” – The Fellowship of the Ring: ‘The Ring Goes South’
The night shone softly upon the quiet valley of Imladris, and its silence was grim. The events of the past days had been troubling to more than those who dwelt upon Arda. High in the heavens, Elbereth’s stars had watched with dread the coming of the One Ring to Rivendell. Now they watched without hope as it departed.
A solemn company of nine walked through the gathering twilight. Silently, they trudged on, weary before they had even begun. One man stood out from the rest, bringing up the rear of the line. He was tall and dark, the glittering depths of his gray eyes showing that he alone was not completely disheartened.
Indeed, Aragorn of the Dúnedain had waited many long and wearisome seasons for the Bane of Isildur to be brought forth. Finally, that day had come, taking him one step closer to his destiny. Should this mission succeed, Aragorn would come into his birthright, as well as take possession of the deepest desire of his soul.
The Ranger scanned the surrounding woods, unconsciously searching for the face of Elrond’s daughter. His eyes halted among the dark shade of a tall tree and spotted her, half-hidden among a cluster of her kin. The waning light struck her hair, creating a glimmering aura about her person.
Gravely, Arwen nodded to Aragorn in recognition. He returned the gesture quickly, looking away. Even so, she kept her eyes fixed on him, willing the man to glance her way once more. When he didn’t, the Elf sighed in disappointment, though she understood his actions.
Aragorn had had much on his mind lately and needed no reminder of what he would lose should the quest fail. A part of her heart knew this and did not fault him for it; the other half wished her Estel would put aside his foolish mission and come back to the safety of her father’s house. But she knew it would never be. Aragorn would never abandon his people, not when he had a chance to free them.
Arwen’s heart ached at the word. Ever since she had first met him, Aragorn had been striving for one thing: freedom. And not only for himself, either. No, the Ranger had been determined to protect the livelihoods of every man, woman, and child in Middle-earth. It was a task too large for any one man, no matter how great. Yet Aragorn was indomitable, and Arwen did not try to dissuade him of his duty.
In Aragorn’s eyes, all that mattered was fulfilling the task that had been set out for him since birth. That responsibility came before everything else – even her.
“Fare well, beloved,” she whispered. “May we meet again in happier times.” With a troubled heart, Arwen disappeared into the dim evening, making her way back to Elrond’s house.
Walking behind Gimli the Dwarf, Aragorn’s mind was in turmoil as well. He had seen the emotions in Arwen’s eyes; he knew what she would have said had she been given the chance. She would have pleaded for him to stay and rethink his choices – as she had done that morning.
Yet Aragorn was firm in his decision, and the words of others did not matter. The sword that had been broken must return to Minas Tirith, and the heir of Isildur must wield it. There was no other way.
For years, he had undergone pain and heartache, all without recompense. Aragorn did not fault his people; they could not express gratitude to those they did not know of. But the strain of protecting the unsuspecting was hard to bear, and he had often longed for peace and serenity. That time would come.
When freedom was bought from the hands of the Enemy, then there would be peace. But that time was long in coming, and Aragorn feared the ultimate cost would be more than he could pay. A man could only lose so much before he succumbed to despair.
A great deal had been lost already: his mother, numerous friends and companions, and not least of all the days of his youth. He had often wondered what more he had left to give. Nearly everyone he had ever loved or cared for had been stolen. All save one. It was this one thing – more precious to him than any other – which the Ranger now sought to protect.
More lovely than any jewel, more precious than all the stars in the night sky. It was Arwen, his last treasure, which Aragorn refused to give up. Were she to fall, there would be nothing left. She was in his very soul, though that itself belonged to her.
That was why he set out now. The One stopped him from earning his birthright; his birthright kept him from the desire of his heart. He could not have the one without first obtaining the other. Arwen knew this.
Yet in spite of that knowledge, Aragorn could not dislodge the memory of her tearstained face from his mind. Her silver eyes haunted him, full of reproach. Reproach and fear.
“Forgive me,” he murmured, though he did not know to whom the words were addressed.
The people of Middle-earth needed their King. Only with the return of the King could peace and freedom be restored. And even should it rent his heart in two, Aragorn was willing to do his duty. Freedom for his people was all that mattered.