Matters of the Heart|
For my lovely beta
Inspired by the small sigh Aragorn
gives in the movie version of RotK at his coronation before he turns
around and faces the people.
Author´s notes: The story combines
book- and movieverse and is slightly AU. Main characters: Aragorn, Legolas,
More notes and quotes to be found at
Disclaimer: I do not own “The Lord
of the Rings” and any recognizable characters except Radulf belong
to the Tolkien estate. I am not making any profit with this work.
For a fleeting yet eternal moment Aragorn
found that time stood still. Not only the weight of the troll seemed
to bear down on him, but everything which had been worrying him ever
since the quest had begun- he suddenly saw very clearly, and a great
sense of despair spread in his mind. He had been in battles before,
but they had never been this fierce, nor had so much been at stake.
Never had so many been lost.
Each night in his dreams he saw the
souls of those who had fallen, saw their pale faces staring at him,
accusing him of having led them towards their doom.
He shuddered as the troll reinforced
the pressure on his chest, abruptly being pulled out of his thoughts
by it: he could see the creature´s determination and suddenly realized
that he had to get out of his stupor if he did not want to be crushed.
Aragorn was suddenly glad to be wearing a cuirass; he would not have
chosen it himself, unwilling to give up his manoeuvrability because the
breastplate seemed heavy and impedimentary, but Gandalf had insisted.
“Most of them have not laid eyes
on their king yet,” he had said, leading the way into the ancient
royal armoury. “If they are to follow you, you must look more than
merely another commander, or one they know from old tales. You must
look a sovereign, Aragorn.”
He had cringed at those words, true
as they were. The Gondorians had just seen a horrible attack on
their home, a nightmare so profound it would take years to repair
the damages. Who was he to demand that they follow him into the next
battle? It had seemed to him the only logical thing to do, drawing the
eye away from Frodo, but now, he was not so sure any more. The men were
weary and battle-worn, after all. And they would most likely not come
Gandalf had been watching him with
a small smile, as though reading his thoughts:
“The men will follow you, Aragorn,” he had said quietly.
“As they have followed Boromir, and Faramir. But this is different.
The steward´s sons have fought to defend Denethor´s city.” Aragorn
looked up at this, thus Gandalf quickly continued:
“No, do not think I am speaking ill of them. Both have fulfilled their
duty to their people, as I am aware of, and for a multitude of reasons.
But you- you have fought for the sake of others regardless of your own.
You had no greed.” His voice grew soft:
“Your own legend precedes you, dear friend.
Denethor was not the only one aware that you had stepped out of the
shadows. The people have waited for this day.”
Aragorn closed his eyes; surely
not this day, he wanted to say, with the dead still out there,
the earth of the Pelennor fields drenched in blood.
The same small smile still played
around Gandalf´s mouth as he beheld the man whose internal struggle
was mirrored on his care-worn face:
“There are always two sides to one coin,”
the wizard eventually said. And Aragorn had heard himself agreeing,
his fingers tracing the White Tree which was engraved on the breastplate.
He had chosen this after all, had he not?
Fresh determination welled up in him,
allowing him to forget the pain for a moment. The cave troll in the
mines of Moria had not managed to kill him, this one would not either.
The troll was indeed intent on taking
the man´s life, therefore he pushed down as hard as possible. He could
feel something shift underneath his foot, then a blinding pain flared
up in his leg: the man had used a knife in the desperate attempt to
The troll groaned and roared; he was
unaware of the man´s friends who stared at him, almost paralyzed in
horror, did not notice how the elf tried to get through the crowd of
fighting parties in order to reach his friend´s side; all he knew was
the pain. It made him angry and increased his determination to kill.
He leaned forward, unable to hear Aragorn´s groans when the troll´s
weight still increased, but taking in the man´s contorted face, grimacing
in pain and the effort to fight back.
Then something happened, though, causing
the troll to hesitate: a subtle change in the air, almost like the silence
that follows a noise which one had not even realized had been there.
Confusion spread in his mind, and he felt something which he had never
felt before: fear. He forgot the man, forgot the wish to kill: his instinct
told him to run away, and that he did.
Aragorn scrambled to his feet, breathless;
his chest ached, and breathing was a relief but painful as well. He
did not care about that now, however: his thoughts were with Frodo.
Silently, Legolas entered the main
hall of the Houses of Healing. The frantic haste which had predominated
the atmosphere during the past few days had finally died down, and it
was very quiet at this hour of night. The elf nodded to the Healer on
watch who was sitting in a small alcove near the entrance, yet did not
stop but swiftly walked down the hallway, passing the larger quarters
until he reached some smaller chambers at the far end. He walked into
the last one; it was dark inside, not a single lamp had been lit. Legolas´
sharp ears picked up the laborious breathing of the man who was sleeping
there, but there was something else as well. His eyes quickly adjusted
to the darkness, and he found his fears confirmed: next to one of the
beds he made out the form of a man, slumped forward on the edge of the
bed and breathing slightly raggedly. Quickly, the elf went to his side
and knelt down next to him. “Aragorn,” he said quietly yet with
emphasis, but to no avail: the Dúnadan did not respond.
Legolas reached up and gently cupped
the man´s cheek with one hand: “Estel.” As though his childhood
name and the soft touch stirred something in him, Aragorn´s breath
hitched nearly imperceptibly before he opened his eyes. He blinked:
“Legolas,” he sighed softly, staring rather blearily in the darkness.
He could not see the elf as his eyes had not adjusted yet, and it took
him a moment to gather his thoughts. “Are you well?”
Legolas beheld him with a mixture of
amusement and concern: “I am well,” he reassured his friend. “It
is you who should be lying down and resting,” he added.
Aragorn sighed: “I have been looking
after him when I could do nothing more for the Hobbits for the time
being,” he said, his eyes straying to the man in the bed next to them.
He was not the youngest any more, in fact Legolas was astonished to
see a man well past his strongest years. His hair was grey, and he seemed
“He was under my command... once.”
Aragorn told him. “His name is Radulf. He has ever been loyal. I shouldn´t
have been surprised that he rode out with us.” Legolas remained silent
for a while, respecting his friend´s worry about the old man.
“What is ailing him?” he eventually
Aragorn smiled, pain evident in his
features: “He is old,” he answered. “The strain of the battle
is taking its toll.”
Legolas nodded understandingly. He
had learned a lot about humans, and one thing was that their bodies
seemed unendingly frailer than those of the elves. That thought brought
him back to Aragorn: “You look terrible,” he said, repeating the
words he had used in Helm´s Deep not so long ago, his eyes seeking
Aragorn´s. Even in the dark he could see how tired the man looked,
and there were bruises and several minor injuries visible on his face.
After the host had returned to Minas Tirith, he had not allowed himself
the luxury to rest, but had gone to the Houses of Healing at once, just
as he had done before. And when Gwaihir and his companions had brought
in the Hobbits, Aragorn had cared for them. Frodo had been so far gone
by that time that Aragorn had had to use all his strength and skill
to call him back to life. And now said strength was spent, it seemed,
for the man´s shoulders sagged as the elf was not wont of him, and
his voice was but a mere whisper.
“I cannot leave him,” Aragorn stated,
his voice filled with sadness. “He has no family, and I fear he will
not live to see another day.”
Legolas surmised that there was more
to this, a story untold behind the obvious bond between Radulf and Aragorn,
but he felt it was not the time to ask. If Aragorn wished to tell him
about it, he would one day do so.
“Have you at least had someone look
after your own injuries?” the elf asked quietly, for he knew he would
not be able to persuade his friend to go and sleep. Aragorn gave him
a crooked smile: “Ioreth has been dabbing at my face every time she
Legolas shook his head: “A fine example
it is you are setting, my friend.” He got to his feet: “I will be
back here in a few minutes.”
When he came back, Aragorn had dozed
off again but tried to pretend he hadn´t. Legolas crouched down next
to him, putting a few things he had carried on the nightstand: a bowl
of water, a few soft cloths, a jar with salve. The elf soaked one of
the cloths in the herbal-infused water and began to dab at Aragorn´s
face just as Ioreth supposedly had done, which Legolas could not quite
believe; there was dried blood in the corner of Aragorn´s mouth, and
he had a bloody welt across his right eye. He winced a few times at
Legolas´ ministrations, but otherwise stayed still and allowed his
eyes to close again. The elf cleaned the man´s face and gently applied
salve on the welt. Aragorn was slumping forward once more, unable to
stay quite awake. Legolas unfastened the bindings of Aragorn´s shirt
and coaxed him to lift his arms. The man shivered in the cool night
air, but did not complain. He was too tired, and he knew that his friend
Legolas frowned at Aragorn´s chest;
the cuirass had probably saved his life, but it had not protected the
Dúnadan from the severe bruises he had sustained, and its edges had
pressed into Aragorn´s skin when the troll had put his weight on it,
leaving a number of abrasions. When the elf touched the man´s ribs,
he winced; none was broken, but they were very tender. “Merely
bruised,” Aragorn murmured, making light of the pain he actually felt.
“Your somewhat strained breathing
tells me otherwise,” Legolas said, not one to be fooled by someone
he knew so well. Aragorn was like a brother to him, and Legolas easily
recognized when he did not tell the truth.
The man sighed: “It could have ended
much worse. Had Frodo been but a little later...” he fell silent.
With a casual tenderness which was
born of the long years they had been close friends, Legolas took Aragorn´s
hand in his: “When I saw the troll attacking you I thought everything
was lost,” he stated softly, involuntarily shuddering at the memory.
“I do not think we will ever forget
this,” Aragorn whispered, “nothing of it.” And Legolas suddenly
understood why his friend did not want to go and rest, why he avoided
sleep despite his exhaustion; there were too many pictures still fresh
in his mind, too many things he still needed to fully comprehend. It
did not hold true that one could get used to the shedding of blood,
the screams and terror of battle, nor did one forget any of it, no matter
how much time passed. Legolas could only guess how much it had taken
out of Aragorn, how dark his dreams were. It were not only the strain
of the battle and everything which had come to pass since the fellowship
had left Rivendell; he was worrying about his newly gained title. He
had never taken the prospect of becoming king lightly, Legolas knew,
but now that the men of Gondor had actually fought for him for the first
time, Aragorn was feeling the full weight of his responsibility. It
was different from commanding an army at someone else´s beck and call,
and it called an attention to him that he was uncomfortable with. He
had confided in Legolas on the way back to Minas Tirith, after Gandalf
had mounted Gwaihir and flown off to find the hobbits: “I would much
rather return to the Wild now,” he had murmured. Legolas had smiled
at him: “And those words from Captain Thorongil,” he jested, for
he had overheard the men around him talking; there were enough who remembered
stories about the famous commander who had served under Ecthelion and
defeated the corsairs of Umbar. Aragorn had returned the smile wearily:
“Thorongil left service after the Battle of the Havens,” he pointed
out, quietly adding “maybe there are only so many battles he can bear.”
After that, they had both fallen silent.
After their arrival in Minas Tirith
Legolas had lost sight of Aragorn in the chaos of men and horses, and
had assumed that his friend had stolen away to be alone for some time;
it would very likely be the last chance to enjoy some solitude for quite
Legolas himself had also slipped away
after ensuring that his horse was well-cared for; it had borne him bravely,
and he knew it in good hands in Minas Tirith´s Royal Stables. The elf
had sought his way to the lower levels of the city, leaving the conundrum
in the Citadel behind, and had found a quiet place near the face of
Mount Mindolluin, a small garden which was not facing Pelennor and looked
rather unattended, but there was a tree in it. Legolas did not mind
that it was pathetically small and bore no resemblance to the tall,
proud trees in his home, for it was not getting much light where it
was standing; he sat down underneath the branches, leaned his head against
the rough bark and closed his eyes. With a deep sigh of contentment,
he began to listen to the tree´s whispers. And when night had fallen,
the elf had opened his eyes again and had gazed up at the stars, wondering
how it came to be that there was so much peace to be found up there
even when all of the earth was in an uproar of war and terror. Legolas
already felt calmer than he had for a long time; the grief and sadness
which had come to him during the battles he had partaken in were abating
a little. He sought Eärendil in the night sky and said a prayer for
Haldir and the other Lórien elves which had fallen in the battle at
Helm´s Deep. It was not the first one, but Legolas felt that he had
not found the right words before, for he had been too agitated.
As he was attending Aragorn in the
silence of the Houses of Healing, the elf thought back to the small
garden and how it had been a refuge to him. He knew now that Aragorn
had not taken the liberty of finding some peace to regain his bearing
and wished he had payed better attention to his friend.
Silently, the elf applied salve on
the broken skin; it was fairly all he could do. The ribs and bruises
would have to heal on their own. With his friend´s help, Aragorn scrambled
back into his shirt, glad of the warmth. The elf noticed that the Dúnadan
was shivering; he took a spare blanket and put it around the man´s
shoulders, then he left the room one more time. When he came back, he
was carrying a mug with a herbal brew; he had gotten it from the Healer
when he had asked for something to relieve the pain in Aragorn´s ribs.
The man took the mug with both hands and inhaled the scent first; he
recognized some of the herbs and hesitated for a moment, aware that
the medicine would make him drowsy. His aching body however prevailed
over his doubts, thus he drank the concoction.
“Allow me to stay with you, Estel,”
Legolas said quietly, taking the mug and putting it on the small table.
He did not like the idea of leaving Aragorn alone with Radulf, least
of all when the old man was very likely going to pass away before dawn.
The Dúnadan was grateful; he could barely keep his eyes open even without
any sleep-inducing herbs, and it was good to have someone there who
would alert him in case he had dozed off when it was time. And Legolas
would be able to guide Radulf´s soul with a prayer, make sure the old
man would not have to linger. Aragorn shivered again, this time out
of uneasiness. He had never been superstitious, yet the encounter with
the Grey Host had left him wondering. Those men had been cursed, of
course, but no one knew what awaited the soul after death, after all.
He sighed, slowly running a hand over his eyes which were burning with
fatigue. His mind was too overwrought, he had the feeling that his thoughts
were moving in circles, and sluggishly so. Subconsciously, he leaned
against Legolas, glad about his company. The elf gently manoeuvered
his arm around his friend so that he was able to support Aragorn, who
was visibly struggling to stay awake.
“Estel,” he murmured, his voice
a little slurred. “Hope.”
“Yes,” Legolas confirmed, “Hope.
A name well-considered.” He smiled down on Aragorn affectionately:
“Thorongil may have left, but Estel never will.”
Aragorn only sighed. Legolas cautiously
increased his hold as the Dúnadan sagged against him a little more,
trusting his friend to not let him fall. Legolas leaned his cheek against
the unruly dark hair and listened.
Aragorn´s breathing soon told him
that the brew was taking effect, for it sounded a little less laboured
and had furthermore taken on a very steady rhythm; the man had fallen
In a low voice, Legolas began to sing.
Thus, the elf kept watch over both men: one of them on the edge of leaving
the world, the other on the path to take his rightful place in it.
Aragorn woke to a slight shaking of
his shoulder. He was confused for a moment, unable to tell where he
was or how he had gotten there, but the soft voice repeating his name
was familiar, and he eventually managed to pry his eyes open. His gaze
met Legolas´; while there was relief evident in the elf´s features,
his eyes were sad: “I think Radulf is ready to leave this world,”
he whispered. His meaning only slowly sank into Aragorn´s weary mind.
With a jolt, he sat upright, wincing at the pain which flared up in
his ribs at the sudden movement. While Legolas steadied him, Aragorn
realized that he must have slept for a few hours; the twilight of dawn
was filling the room. His gaze fell onto Radulf, who was lying as motionlessly
as before. Nothing indicated that he was about to die, yet Legolas would
not have woken Aragorn without a reason. The Dúnadan concentrated,
pushing the last remnants of sleep away, and gingerly laid his hand
on Radulf´s temple. Closing his eyes, he sought the man in the dark,
as he had done hours before. He did not register any sounds around him
anymore, nor that Legolas was still holding his shoulders in support;
his mind was feeling its way through darkness until he found the presence
of Radulf´s soul. The faint light Aragorn had found earlier had diminished;
there was merely a tiny glimmer left, barely visible. Aragorn had tried
to strengthen Radulf when he had reached out to him before, but to no
avail: Radulf´s time had come. Aragorn therefore did not try it again,
but bade the other a silent farewell. With the words of an Elven prayer
in his mind, he watched the glimmer fade away. For a moment, he thought
he could hear Radulf´s voice in his head, laughing like a carefree
young man. Then the connection broke entirely, and Aragorn would have
slumped forward had it not been for Legolas. Sounds and light came back
to the man as he leaned against Legolas once more, trembling and breathless
as though he had run. He was white as a sheet and looked more haggard
“He is gone,” he whispered once
he had recovered enough to speak, “he is dead.” Tears welled up
in his eyes and found their way down his cheeks.
Legolas nodded and just held Aragorn
in his arms; he rocked back and forth ever so slightly, his mind wandering
off to Boromir´s death at Amon Hen. It seemed a long time ago, but
Legolas vividly recalled how it had affected Aragorn, even though they
had not seemed the best of friends before and there had been a palpable
animosity between them at times. Yet the Ranger had grieved for his
fallen comrade and had shed tears as well. Legolas smiled; Estel had
always been compassionate. The people of Gondor might remember a strong
commander with a stern face, but they only saw what Aragorn, or rather
Thorongil, had wanted them to see. The man Legolas knew so well was
not only a great leader but had a huge heart, which the elf suspected
was the reason why he worried so much. Holding Aragorn close, Legolas
waited until the silent weeping abated.
“Will you go and lie down now?”
he eventually asked quietly. Aragorn nodded: “I fear that I will not
get anywhere on my own, though,” he said softly. “I do not think
I can even stand up.”
“Then you are fortunate to have an
elf by your side,” Legolas said, “who will see to it that you do.”
Aragorn slept for three whole days.
Legolas, Gandalf and even Gimli took it in turns to keep him company
and watch over him, since the sleep was bordering on unconsciousness.
They were greatly worried; on the second day, Legolas went to find the
sons of Elrond, who had arrived in the Houses of Healing on the previous
night and had since been working there, using their healing skills.
They had not heard of their foster brother´s condition yet and immediately
accompanied Legolas to the chamber in which Aragorn lay.
When Aragorn woke up, his body was
not aching so fiercely anymore, and he felt oddly at peace. He blinked;
it was evening, and some small lights were lit in the room. He had no
idea where he was, since he hardly remembered how he had gotten into
bed at all. Legolas had been there, that was all he recalled. Yet the
person who was with him and sat down on the edge of the bed now was
not the Prince of Mirkwood, but one of his Elven foster brothers, Elladan.
Silently he supported Aragorn´s head and helped him drink some water.
He then put the glass down on the nightstand and regarded the Dúnadan
with a mixture of fondness and concern. “I am glad to see you awake,”
he eventually said.
“And I am glad that you are here,”
Aragorn tried to say, still sleepily but heartfelt. His voice did not
obey him, however, and he could only produce a croak.
Elladan smiled affectionately; he had
understood nevertheless. He took the man´s hand in his: “You have
been fast asleep for three days and hardly stirred. We feared that you
had overextended yourself too much, so gravely indeed that you would
not regain consciousness.”
It has hardly been this bad,
Aragorn thought and wanted to sit up to prove his point, but his arms
would not support him and his ribs made themselves felt uncomfortably
at the strain. The elf gently held him down on the pillow: “Do not
exert yourself. You still have to recover.” Aragorn looked at
Elladan resignedly and gave up the attempt.
Elladan´s smile faded as concern crept
into his gaze: “I am not making light of the matter, Estel. When Legolas
came to summon Elrohir and me, you were already slipping into unconsciousness.”
“You were there,” Aragorn croaked
with some effort, suddenly remembering another presence in the darkness.
“You held on to me.”
Elladan nodded. “You were greatly
weakened, I had to keep you from slipping away.” Anguish briefly flickered
up in his eyes as he recalled how lifeless his young brother had seemed.
He leaned forward, gently cupping Aragorn´s gaunt face with both his
hands: “Do not do this again, Estel,” he whispered, “never again
push yourself so far that you endanger yourself.”
Aragorn looked into the depths of the
elf´s eyes and nodded, feeling guilty and loved at the same time. “Forgive
me,” he rasped with his still hoarse throat.
“There is nothing to forgive.”
Elladan smiled again, shaking his head: “You have overestimated your
stamina, Estel.” He took Aragorn´s hand in his again: “I have seen
you battling, you fought with great vigour and strength. Your will to
succeed and to give the Halfling a chance has not wavered once, for
you knew that all of Middle-earth would have been doomed otherwise.
And you withstood the temptation of the ring. But now your energy is
spent and you must rest.”
Sleep was indeed beckoning the man
once more. His eyes clung to his brother´s face as he held on to his
hand: “Can you stay with me? Where is Elrohir?” he asked tiredly,
reminding Elladan of the little boy he once was.
“He has returned to the Houses of
Healing,” Elladan replied. “There is much labour to be done, and
we are helping out.”
Aragorn tried to let go of his hand
at once: “Then you should go as well,” he murmured.
Elladan however did not relinquish
his grip: “Mithrandir and I are taking turns,” he said,“and Legolas
has gone with him. Do not worry, Estel, all is well.” He laid his
other hand on Aragorn´s temple: “Rest now, young one. Go to sleep...”
A few weeks passed. The people of Minas
Tirith had buried their dead and begun to repair the damages, though
they were manifold and quite grave. Some areas of the city had to be
temporarily closed off, for the ground did not seem stable enough to
bear any weight, especially where the outer walls had been hit by rocks
or the beasts of the Winged Nazgûl during the siege. Then there was
the issue of a massive dead troll near one of the gates and how to dispose
Gandalf often rode through the city
on Shadowfax to have a look on how things were proceeding, and give
advice if need be. An atmosphere of bewildered hope lay in the air.
The wizard was not urgently needed in the Houses of Healing anymore;
those who had survived their injuries were either healed or on the mend
and in good hands. The old man smiled fondly as he thought of the king-to-be;
Aragorn had recovered well from the ordeal of the past months, as had
the Hobbits. Frodo and Sam were up and about already, if cautiously
and only in the gardens which belonged to the Houses of Healing. Merry
and Pippin, who felt compelled to live up to their respective knighthoods,
divided their time between helping with the reconstruction and enjoying
the warm spring sun with Frodo and Sam. It saddened Gandalf´s heart
to see how much Frodo had changed. The Halfling did his best to appear
his old self, yet at times his gaze was haunted and the torment he had
endured was visible on his features. The wizard had already decided
to keep an eye on him; for the time being, he was more concerned about
Aragorn´s welfare. The Dúnadan had been well-cared for by his friends
and brothers and his injuries had healed. Yet he, just like Frodo, could
not conceal his true feelings when he thought no one was watching him,
and Gandalf was aware that Legolas had noticed it as well. The wizard
suspected that it had something to do with the impending coronation,
and wondered about it; he knew that Aragorn had always been hesitant
to accept his heritage, yet he had seemed more determined when they
had set out from Rivendell. This, however, had changed again lately.
Gandalf thought back to the day on which their host had set out to the
Black Gate and how he had led Aragorn into the Royal Armoury before;
he could still see Aragorn´s exhausted face as the man pondered the
White Tree on the cuirass he was holding and had later worn. The Dúnadan
had been doubting his decision at that point, battle-worn and depleted
as he was on that day. Gandalf realized his error in thinking now: though
he had convinced Aragorn to follow the path he had chosen, he had not
accomplished to put his friend´s mind at ease. In the end, the man
had not shied back from his task, but he had done it out of duty and conscientiousness,
and because he believed it was the only chance Frodo had. Now that the
ring was destroyed and the war was won, Aragorn seemed reluctant to
claim the throne. Gandalf shook his head, pensively staring into the
empty air in front of him; he would have to do something about it. First
of all, he needed to talk to Legolas.
Patiently, Aragorn threaded a needle.
He had his old and worn but beloved coat on his lap and was mending
the numerous tears and cuts in the weatherbeaten leather. It was good
to be working with his hands, even if it was a task as tedious as sewing.
He was albeit wont to it, since he had had to see to his clothes himself
during the long years in the Wild; it furthermore was a welcome means
to concentrate on something simple.
From time to time he stopped, looking
up and over the vast expanse of land and sky before him. He was sitting
on a balcony high up in the Citadel; when he had finally gotten to his
feet again, he had found that Legolas had taken him to the Royal Houses,
assuming that Aragorn would wish for a quiet and peaceful place.
The sun shone warmly as it had done
most of the past weeks, even though it was merely Víressë and the
day was still young.
Aragorn lowered his hand and closed
his eyes, enjoying the mild air which carried the scent of spring.
He jumped when he felt a hand on his
shoulder, though the light touch immediately told him who it was.
He blinked up at Legolas: “Mae govannen,”
he said. The elf declined his head in greeting, his eyes sparkling:
“Well met indeed,” he replied. “I can still sneak up on you, it
Aragorn could not subdue a grin: “You
caught me off guard,” he admitted good-naturedly. Legolas stepped
up to the balustrade and let his gaze wander over the plains. “A fine
day it is,” he said. “Too fine indeed to be spending it in a confinement
His friend looked up at him: “What
do you have in mind?”
Legolas shrugged, careful not to appear
too eager: “A little expedition.” He turned and motioned towards
the rock face of the Mindolluin: “Finding out what Minas Tirith looks
like from up there.”
Aragorn followed his gaze up to the
heights of the snow-covered peaks high above them. They gleamed in the
morning sun and gave a magnificent sight. Aragorn immediately felt a
pang of wanderlust, yet he hesitated: “You wish to climb up into the
mountains?” he asked his friend, suspicious of Legolas´ reasons.
“Did you lose a wager with Gimli?”
The elf laughed softly: “Did you
not know that elves are curious beings and curious by nature?” he
quipped. Aragorn still eyed him warily: “And yet I would have sworn
that the Prince of Mirkwood rather preferred to be among trees than
up in the mountains. Especially after his latest ventures concerning
the Caradhras and Moria.”
Legolas sighed deeply before sitting
down on the bench next to Aragorn. He turned towards him with a more
serious expression: “If you really want to hear a reason, there is
only one thing I can tell you. I would like to spend some time alone
with my dearest friend before he is going to be too caught up in matters
of state.” He said that with such fervour that Aragorn, despite his
own apprehensions, started laughing.
“You could have said so in the first
place,” he eventually answered. Legolas crossed his arms in front
of his chest: “I did not want to distress you by reminding you that
these are the last days of your old life,” he replied.
Aragorn studied his hands: the scars
on them bore evidence of the numerous battles he had fought. And yet
it were not those which came to mind when he thought of the life he
had left behind. He thought of his travels and his life with the Rangers,
but soon, pictures of Rivendell stole into his consciousness, and he
could see Elrond smiling at him. He thought of Elladan and Elrohir and,
inevitably, Arwen. His heart seemed to constrict for a moment when he
realized how much he was missing her.
“I have already taken leave of my
old life,” he said in a low voice, “the Ranger lies behind me, as
does Thorongil. It is a long and dreary parting, yet it is the way of
the world that some things begin and others end.”
It seemed to Legolas that there was
much sadness in Aragorn, but also something new and nearly indiscernible.
A diminutive glint of courage, maybe. But when the man turned to look
at his friend now, his gaze was conscience-stricken: “Forgive me,
Legolas,” he said. “I have been very selfish of late. I know that
it is your heart´s desire to set sail and leave these lands. I cannot
imagine how much discomfort you must be experiencing because of that
Legolas pondered Aragorn´s words;
it struck him how observant his friend was, for the elf on his part
had been trying to hide his sea-longing.
“I can wait a little longer,” he
eventually said. “I have much to distract me from it.” I will
stay here as long as you, he added in his thoughts, I can bear
it for what seems just such a short while. A while: a month, a life.
What I could not bear would be to leave you before your time.
Slowly, as though they had come to
a silent understanding, the two friends broke into smiles, their gazes
never leaving each other.
Two hours later found Aragorn and Legolas
climbing up a steep path in the foothills of Mindolluin, east of the
city. It was an arduous task they had set for themselves, yet they were
both enjoying it. After much labour they reached a small plateau upon
which they rested. They had brought some food and water and sat down
to have a light meal. They were quite high up already, yet not above
the Citadel yet. Minas Tirith lay gleaming in the sun as its light reflected
from the white stone; it seemed untouched and invulnerable from the
Aragorn felt a contentment bordering
on such a delight that he would have been comfortable with staying there,
but Legolas urged him on after a while. So they went further up until
they came to a high field below the snows that clad the lofty peaks,
and it looked down over the precipice that stood behind the City. And
standing there they surveyed the lands, and they saw the towers of the
City far below them like white pencils touched by the sunlight, and
all the Vale of the Anduin was like a garden, and the Mountains of Shadow
were veiled in golden mist. Upon the one side their sight reached to
the grey Emyn Muil, and the glint of Rauros was like a star twinkling
far off; and upon the other side they saw the River like a ribbon laid
down to Pelargir.
And as Aragorn beheld his realm, an
understanding began to grow in his mind of how all things sometimes
worked together. He had once chosen exile and avoided to look too far
ahead; all those years, he had learned the often strange ways of life
and had explored the world around him. He had travelled far, yet the
winding road he had taken had eventually led him to this very day, no
matter how many obstacles he had encountered and how many detours it
had entailed. And he found that he was not as afraid anymore, now that
he was standing up there, for his realm was not strange to him.
Legolas watched his friend; Aragorn
had subconsciously straightened up and stood tall and proud as he regarded
the land around him. The elf smiled; it had been Gandalf´s idea to
bring Aragorn there, and the wizard had as usually had a keen sense
of how to encourage the Dúnadan.
The man only tore his gaze away when
he heard his Elven friend exclaim: “Alas! It seems that I am fortunate,
for there are indeed other things than rocks to be found here!”
Aragorn turned, and there was a stony
slope behind him running down from the skirts of the snow; and as he
looked he was aware that alone there in the waste a growing thing stood.
And he climbed to it, and saw that out of the very edge of the snow
there sprang a sapling tree no more than three foot high. Already it
had put forth young leaves long and shapely, dark above and silver beneath,
and upon its slender crown it bore one small cluster of flowers whose
white petals shone like the sunlit snow.
A smile spread on the Dúnadan´s face
as he realized what they had found and felt his heart lifting: it was
indeed a sapling descended from Nimloth, the White Tree of Númenor.
The tree of his ancestors.
Very gently, Aragorn touched one of
the blossoms: “Le hannon, Legolas,” he said aloud, and with a much
softer voice added: “Thus come the days of Elessar.”
Mores author´s notes:
- Víressë is the month of
April in the Númenorian calendar.
- Le hannon: elvish for “thank
- Ioreth: according to the
book “an old wife, the eldest of the women who served in that house”
(meaning one of the Houses of Healing), The Lord of the Rings: The Return
of the Kind. Book six, page 860
- In the book, Frodo and Sam
are taken to the field of Cormallen after destroying the ring, where
they meet Aragorn and the others after recovering. Furthermore, it is
Gandalf who climbs up Mount Mindolluin with Aragorn and helps him find
the sapling of the White Tree.
- Sauron was defeated on the
twenty-fifth of March (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kind.
Book six, page 952)
Quotes taken from the “Lord of the
Rings” 50th anniversary edition, HarperCollins
- “For a while: a month,
a life (...)” taken from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of
the Kind. Book six, page 956
- “(...) they came to a
high field below the snows that clad the lofty peaks, and it looked
down over the precipice that stood behind the City. And standing there
they surveyed the lands, (...) and they saw the towers of the City far
below them like white pencils touched by the sunlight, and all the Vale
of the Anduin was like a garden, and the Mountains of Shadow were veiled
in golden mist. Upon the one side their sight reached to the grey Emyn
Muil, and the glint of Rauros was like a star twinkling far off; and
upon the other side they saw the River like a ribbon laid down to Pelargir
(...).”taken from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kind. Book
six, page 970f.
- “ (...) Aragorn turned,
and there was a stony slope behind him running down from the skirts
of the snow; and as he looked he was aware that alone there in the waste
a growing thing stood. And he climbed to it, and saw that out of the
very edge of the snow there sprang a sapling tree no more than three
foot high. Already it had put forth young leaves long and shapely, dark
above and silver beneath, and upon its slender crown it bore one small
cluster of flowers whose white petals shone like the sunlit snow.”
taken from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kind. Book six,