Summary: Aragorn tells
his son a bedtime story about one of his experiences as a Ranger.
He remembered when they'd told
him, “No.” It had been so long since he'd heard that word. His foster
father told him, “No going in the forest”, and “No playing here”,
and “No taking things from this drawer.”
Things had changed so much
since then. He did whatever he wanted and no one told him otherwise.
Even Faramir didn't dare. He'd purse his lips and scowl, but then bow
and say, “Yes my king.” At first it was nice, but after a few times
Aragorn grew tired of all the bowing and scraping about.
Aragorn missed being told no.
He missed the lessons and the lectures, but not the punishments. To
him, it meant that people cared. His foster father said no and seemed
to shake in fright when he decided to put his hand in the fire to feel
what it was like.
His brother said no when he
tried to fight and was much to small. They kept him safe, for the most
part, and tried to keep him away from dangerous, evil things, like orcs
and fire. Not that it helped; he seemed, even as a young boy, to seek
out trouble, to go where he shouldn't, to stray from the rules and paths
set out for his safety.
Yet Aragorn never made the
same mistake twice. He stuck his hand in the pretty flames of the fire.
It hurt and he didn't do it again. The next time he stuck a stick in
the fire and then dropped it on the floor as the flames danced down
towards his wrist. Burning a hole in the floor was not as a bad as burning
his hand, but he still got in trouble.
Being a Ranger was the time
when he was told, “No”, the most.. And yet it was never actually
spoken. The words came in pain, or a breeze or in some long forgotten
and suddenly remembered memory from his childhood.
Aragorn flipped open one of
his many journals and glanced from page to page. He had a story to remember
and it was one of his favourites. He looked over the details, reminding
himself to tell it to Eldarion that night.
“Tonight I'm going to tell
you a story about me. When I was just a little younger than Faramir.”
Aragorn sat back in the rocking chair, cradling the infant boy in his
“It all started in my second
year as a Ranger. The second year is the worst. See, in the first year
you're nervous and you pay attention and work hard and worry that you're
going to do something wrong. Then in the second year, you've had a decent
first year and decide that all the work and careful attention to detail
is too hard. After all with experience and practice what's the point
of working so hard?”
Aragorn laughed slightly. “That's
exactly what I thought. It wasn't until the third year that I realised
how stupid I'd been and how much more attention I should have paid to
everything around me.”
He cleared his throat. “This
is what happened.”
“It was late one morning
in early spring. The birds were singing and the sun was up. But it was
still quite cold and there wasn't much food yet. I could catacomb any
animals to eat and plants hadn't grown enough to be picked and I had
to make do with what I had.”
“The only edible matter left
in my bag were strips of dried meat. I really hated the taste of them,
I still do. But they can fill you up very quickly and are light to carry
so I ended up eating them a lot”
“That year, during the winter,
I'd spent a few weeks at my home, Rivendell. My foster father had an
amazing library and I'd spent many nights going through it. I loved
reading all of the books and learning everything I could about the world.”
“Only then I didn't think
I was still learning, I thought I knew everything there was to know
about plants, the world, and life. So when I came across a tree of berries,
I decided that I was tired of eating the dried meat and that these little
red berries would be a good change.”
Eldarion cried out, but Aragorn
stroked his head and continued his story in a low, soothing voice. “We
were taught not to eat berries other creatures didn't eat in the Rangers.
And any tree of berries that hasn't already been devoured by birds and
other little animals is most likely poison. But I remembered reading
a book that talked about a tree with red berries that animals regarded
as poisonous but were actually fine to eat.”
“I thought that it was that
tree. After all, I was a seasoned Ranger and the adopted son of Lord
Elrond. Why would I not know everything there is to know about plants?
I thought it all made perfect sense.”
Aragorn sighed. “I wasn't
right. I made a decision too quickly and didn't look things over properly.
I was very lucky that I only managed to eat a few of the berries before
I realised their taste was one of bitter poison not nutrients. It was
almost like a final test, and one that I failed.”
He tapped his son on the nose
and got out of the rocking chair, placing him gently into his cradle
and covering him lightly with a blanket. “Remember ion nín, you can
be better than a man, or an elf, or a dwarf. But never, ever, think
that you are better than Middle-Earth itself.”
Aragorn smiled to himself and
ran a finger over the baby's cheek. He felt warm and happy inside, just
as if the spring thaw outside had begun within his own heart. “Sweet
dreams,” he whispered before heading to the door and slipping out.