Five Ingredients II




Picture Challenge II


Survey results & NEW RULES

Joker theme



Five Senses

picture challenge






Originals and Copies











Life and Death













Out of Place

Unexpected Adventure



Alphabet Story



Betrayal and Forgiveness

No Time

Yes, I do















History Repeating Itself


Last Words


Around the Fireside

Moments of Transition

First Meetings





Stories and Pictures

In the Name of Love

Animals of Middle-earth




Colours of Middle-earth



Father and Son


One Voice


Heart Break


Losers Weepers

Finders Keepers

Devil's Advocate



Five Ingredients - Your Recipe

The Student Surpasses the Teacher



Return of the Light

Trading Places

The Price of Freedom

Giving Gifts, Receiving Gifts

Bad Habits

Weird Tales


Elven Realms


Crime and Punishment

"When I Was Your Age...!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!



Once Upon A Time




Growing Up


Dark Places

Friend or Foe

Well-laid Plans

The Sea, The Sea

Good and Evil

The Four Elements

As Time Goes By

Childhood Fears


Me, Myself and I


Maidens of Middle Earth

Crossing Borders

On Location

Home is Where the Heart is

A Glimpse of the Future

That's a First



Unlikely Heroes

The O. C.

Lest we Forget




If I could turn back Time


First Sentence

Things to be Thankful for

White Lie

Winter Wonderland

Rituals and Festivities





What If ...?

One Title: Your Story

A Fairy Tale, Middle-Earth style

Games People Play

Friends in Small Places

Matters of the Heart

In the Name of Love

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, Gandalf, Elladan.

More notes and quotes to be found at the end.

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 back.

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 free himself.

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 frail.

“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 asked.

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 went past.”

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 meant well.

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 some time.

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 asleep.

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 than usual.

“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 of it.

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 seems.”

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 of stone.”

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 unfulfilled yearning.”

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 distance.

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.”

The End

Mores author´s notes:

  • Víressë is the month of April in the Númenorian calendar.
  • Le hannon: elvish for “thank you”.
  • 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 2005:

  • “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, page 971
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