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The Price of Being King

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Title:  The Price of Being King

 

Rating:  PG13 (just to be on the safe side)

 

Disclaimer:  I don’t own The Lord of the Rings nor am I profiting from this story.  Any similarity between this story and other fan fiction pieces is purely coincidental.  According to Tolkien Aragorn was fostered in Rivendell after the death of his father.  I’m expanding on that idea and considering Aragorn to be part of lord Elrond’s family.  I’m also giving into movie verse on the subject of Legolas and considering them very old and dear friends.

 

Summary:  Life is a series of choices, but every choice has a consequence.  The newly crowned king of Gondor must make a choice, which will affect Middle Earth for eternity.

 

A/N:  I wrote this story because I wanted to investigate the events in Aragon’s life which made him the noble ranger we saw in the trilogy.  This story is different from most because I’m basing Aragon’s actions in a present situation on events which have occurred during his lifetime and you as the reader get to share those memories with him. 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

            The months following the War of the Ring had been a series of ups and downs for the new king of Gondor; evil had been destroyed, his kinsman was killed, he finally got to marry Arwen, and his father left Middle Earth.  Due to all the changes in his life Arwen thought Aragorn needed to get out of Minas Tirith, therefore a group consisting of the new king, his friend Legolas, his steward and the royal guard rode out to tour the outlying areas of Gondor.  In five months of travel the group had seen destruction but they had also seen communities coming together to overcome hardships.  The last stop before returning to Minas Tirith was Poros, a small settlement located where the Harad road crossed the Poros River.  As they were approaching the settlement the group got quite a shock when they saw a plain littered with hundreds of animal carcasses.

 

            Aragorn called the group to a halt and surveyed the area for any danger, finding none, he dismounted and knelt near a carcass, “What were these creatures?”

 

            Faramir, the steward of Gondor, looked up from the skeleton he was examining, “Harad deer”, he said absently.  He looked around the field at the large number of skeletons, “They used to be plentiful in South Ithilien but we haven’t seen any on this trip.  I guess this explains why.”

 

            “Have you ever seen anything like this?”  Jauron, the head guard inquired of nobody in particular.

 

            “No” Faramir replied.

 

            Aragorn sighed as a memory resurfaced, “Yes” he nodded towards Legolas, “we have, about fifty years ago”.

 

            “Nay, my friend it was not fifty but sixty years past.”  Legolas interrupted.

 

            Aragorn smiled at his old friend, “if you find my memory so lacking perhaps you’d like to tell the tale.”

            “Nay, Estel, I don’t have the stomach to recall that tale.”  Legolas replied than walked a short distance away and climbed a tree.

 

            Aragorn smiled sadly as he watched his friend walk away than turned toward his companions, “As I was saying sixty years ago Legolas and I were in the Iron Mountains.”

 

Flashback

 

            “Estel you’re a ranger, you should be able to find our way out of these hills!”  Legolas playfully chastised his friend.

 

            “Yes, well I’m a tired ranger” the man snapped.  When he saw the flash of concern in the elf’s eyes he added with a small smile, “I’ll rest but not until we’re out of this valley.”

 

            “Well I hope we’re out soon mellon nín*, those storm clouds are getting closer every second”, the elf responded.

 

            “I think it’s just a round this bend” the ranger assured.  He walked confidently around the bend and was so shocked that he came to a complete stop.

 

            “This doesn’t look like the way out”, Legolas commented casually as he surveyed the sheer granite wall in front of him.

 

            Aragorn sneered at his travel companion, “I can see that!”

 

            The harsh reply to the prince’s attempt at levity caused the elf to turn and observe his friend, the ranger’s eyes were bloodshot and had dark bags under them, he stumbled, and his shoulders were slumped.  “Estel, I’m sorry I shouldn’t have taunted you when you are so tired.  I wish I could be of more assistance, but …”

 

             “you have no memory of the trip” Aragorn finished for his friend.

 

            “No” the elf admitted “I remember nothing between leaving Mirkwood and being rescued from the Easterling camp.”

 

            The ranger nodded absently as he intently studied his friend’s eyes then gently tipped the elf’s head to the side and traced the healing wound with his finger, “Well you were hit pretty hard, the memories may or may not come back.”

 

            “It may be for the best if they don’t” Legolas muttered than looked at his friend, “You didn’t exactly come out unscathed yourself.”  He took Aragorn by the shoulders and turned him to face the granite wall again.  “We both need to rest and the storm is getting closer lets see if there isn’t a cave we can shelter in until morning.”

 

            The ranger looked at his elven friend as if he had just announced he intended to marry a dwarf woman and move to Moria to raise a family, “You want to go in a cave!?”

 

            Legolas shook his head and gently pushed past the ranger, intently studying the cull-de-sac, “It isn’t that I want to mellon nín but that there isn’t any choice.”  The keen eyes of the elf finally found what they sought, “Oh, there we are, a place to spend the night and then in the morning we can set out for home”.

 

            They had nearly reached the cave when a horrid smell reached the ranger, “What is that smell!?”

 

            Legolas narrowed his eyes, “I’m not sure, I first smelled it when we entered this canyon but it seems to be getting stronger the closer we get to that cave.”

 

            Aragorn removed his flint and steel from his pack then ripped a strip of cloth off his tunic and wrapped it around a stick.  He used his flint and steel to set the fabric on fire than lifted the torch and headed for the cave.  The ranger felt alone so turned and found the prince staring at him, “What?  The housekeeping staff wouldn’t know what to do if my tunics returned in one piece.  Besides,” he added as he ducked into the cave “we need to see what is creating that smell.”  The sight inside the cave made the ranger stop dead in his tracks.  The edges of the cave were littered with stacks of mountain sheep carcasses, some lacking horns and some lacking heads but all were rotting in the enclosed space.

 

            As Aragorn moved further into the cave to discover the cause for the carnage, the entrance was unblocked and the prince followed his friend inside.  “What happened here?” The elf bent to examine the carcass nearest to the door, “These animals have been killed by someone but they didn’t take the meat.  What could have possibly happened to the hunters?”  Legolas turned confused and concerned eyes to the ranger, “Do you think they were captured by the Easterlings?”

 

            Aragorn saw the anguish in his friend’s eyes and cringed, the sight alone was enough to distress an elf, a race that loved and respected all animals, but the thought that the hunters were undergoing the same physical abuse that the elf himself had endured was driving the prince to despair.  The ranger sighed, how could he keep from lying to his friend yet allow the elf to maintain some semblance of compassion for the second born.  After several moments of thought he had come to no answers and decided that the best thing was to be honest and trust in his friend, “No, mellon nín I don’t think they were captured by the Easterlings – I think it was the Easterlings that did this.”

 

            Legolas looked at his friend dumbfounded, “But why?  Why would they leave the meat?  Surely we didn’t scare them away from this area but all they took were the horns”

 

            “and some heads.”  Aragorn finished with a sigh.  “Legolas, the Easterlings killed these animals to collect trophies that they could sell.  I saw it in Gondor - some people put animal horns or heads on their walls as decorations.”

 

            “They were killed for decorations!”  Legolas thundered.  “Mankind first doomed all of Middle Earth to live in continued darkness when Isildur refused to get rid of the ring.”  Aragorn winced but Legolas continued “and now they decimate the animal populations for wall hangings!”

 

            Aragorn reached out for his friend but Legolas turned around and walked to the mouth of the cave where he tried to gain control of his emotions.  Aragorn gave Legolas a few minutes then joined him at the entrance of the cave, “Not all humans approve of this sort of thing you know.”

 

            “I know and I’m sorry I didn’t mean . . . ”

 

            Aragorn cut him off, “I know Legolas, I know.” He slapped his friend on the shoulder and headed out of the cave, “We need to find a place to camp tonight.”

 

            Legolas caught the man’s shoulder, “We can’t go out there, it’s pouring.”

 

            “Yes, but neither you or I want to spend the night in here,” Aragorn flashed his friend a smile “and I think an elf and a ranger will survive a little rain.”  So the two beings left the only shelter for miles and went out in the rain.

 

End of flashback

 

            “How did you know it was the Easterlings?”  Faramir asked.

 

            “They were protecting a wain* which was covered with some blankets.” Aragorn replied.

 

            “Did you find the Easterlings?” Jauran inquired.

 

            The king shook his head, “No, they were gone when we went back to the camp and we were too injured to follow them.”

 

            “That was a disturbing tale but we shouldn’t jump to conclusions”, the steward advised. “We don’t know that these animals were killed for trophies, yes the heads are missing from some but then again so is the flesh.”

 

            “They may have been picked clean by the carrion fowl” Legolas chimed in as he walked up to the group.

 

            “True old friend, but as Faramir says let’s find out the whole story before we make any conclusions.” Aragorn replied as he mounted Roheryn.  The rest of the party quickly followed suite and soon they were headed for Poros where they hoped to learn what had befallen the herd of Harad Deer.  The group attracted a great deal of attention as they rode through the streets of the small settlement so by the time they reached the center of town a large party was waiting for them.

 

            “Greetings Sadaraszar” Faramir called as he dismounted and approached the man at the head of the group.

 

            Upon recognizing the rider Sadaraszar, the mayor, broke into a wide smile, “Faramir as I live and breath.”  Then he turned to address the men behind him, “It’s the steward’s son.”  Once the crowd knew the identity of this guest the mayor turned back to the man before him, “How are you boy?  How are your father and brother, did they make it through the war all right?”

 

            Faramir smiled sadly, “I’m fine Sadaraszar but I’m afraid both my father and brother passed on some time ago.”  The steward collected himself then smiled and turned to the man behind him.  “However, I’m not here to bring bad news but rather glad tidings and a new beginning for Gondor.  My lord major I’d like to introduce you to the new king of Gondor, King Elessar.”

 

            Sadaraszar and the other men’s eyes opened wide with stock and they immediately fell to their knees in front of the king.  Aragorn chuckled at the abrupt change in the men, “Arise my friends.  Just as you are unused to having a king I’m unused to being a king and therefore don’t like my friends on their knees.”

 

            The men stood and Sadaraszar addressed the king, “My lord what brings you to Poros?”

 

            “I’m making the rounds of the outlying settlements in order to ascertain the damage done by the war.  Sadaraszar, perhaps you can clarify something for me, as we were riding up we noticed a large number of Harad deer dead in the plain.  What happened to them?”

 

            Sadaraszar nodded, “Yes, well those deer have a great deal to do with how Poros managed during and after the war.  The crossing of Poros has always been vulnerable to attack by the Haradrim and this war was no different.  We were often attacked and all our livestock was killed, which forced us to rely on the Harad deer for survival.  We were too busy defending ourselves to bury the bones so we piled them on the plain, which had the added bonus of keeping foul beasts away from town.”

 

            “We saw no herds of deer as we approached, where are your hunting grounds?” Legolas inquired.

 

            “Unfortunately the herds are gone, fifteen months of an entire settlement surviving on them drastically reduced their number.” Sadaraszar replied sadly.

 

            “Why did you not send to the white city for aid?” Aragorn questioned.

 

            “We did, but the road is treacherous and our messengers never got through,” replied Ezendiũr, one of Sadaraszar’s advisors.

            Aragorn sighed as the weight of the matter settled firmly on his shoulders, “How much food do you have left?”

 

            Sadaraszar and his advisors exchanged glances before the major sighed in his turn, “None, we ran out this morning.”

 

Chapter 2

 

            Legolas and Aragorn exchanged an alarmed look and then the elf inquired, “What are you going to do?”

 

            “We’ve heard of one place where the deer can still be found and we’re sending out a hunting party immediately.” Sadaraszar responded.

 

            “We would be honored if you’d allow us to accompany you.”  The former ranger offered.  Sadaraszar accepted the kind offer and within the hour a group of local hunters set out on foot trailed by the king’s group on horseback.

 

            During the journey Aragorn thought over the problem facing them, part of his country was starving yet the Harad deer was on the brink of being eliminated from Middle Earth.  Eventually the king came out of his brooding enough to be aware of a presence at his side, slipping into Sindarin Aragorn sighed “Legolas, what do I do?”

 

            The elf saw the indecision in his friend’s eyes, “Estel this is one of the few disadvantages of being a human raised by elves.”  Aragorn raised an eyebrow in question, which caused Legolas to smile, “You are a king of men, and a good king, as such you recognize the need to provide for your people but the part of you which is an elf can’t bare to see a type of animal disappear from Middle Earth.”

 

            Aragorn smiled warily at his old friend “You still have not told me what to do.”

 

            The elf smiled back, “nor will I for the decision is yours alone.”  Seeing his friend about to protest Legolas held up his hand in a gesture that asked for patience, “However, I will tell you of a similar situation my grandfather faced and you can take from that what you will.”

 

Flashback  Greenwood the Great

 

Second Age 3418

 

 

“Thalinar be sure to have the chief prepare cisco for the feast next week.  It’s Elrond’s favorite and if his stomach is satisfied it may make him more agreeable to my point of view.”

 

            Thalinar frowned and started flipping through the stack of reports in his hand, when he found the report he was searching for he perused it quickly than addressed the king, “my lord, our fisher-elves are no longer able to catch cisco.”

 

            “What do you mean they are no longer able to catch cisco?  Have they suddenly lost that skill?” the king inquired, his anger beginning to show it’s ugly head.

 

            “No sire, the fish just aren’t present in the river.” The aide replied as calmly as possible.

 

            The king’s anger was increasing by the second, “How is that possible?”

 

            “Sire you’re aware of the new human settlement down the river?” when the king nodded the aide continued, “Apparently the population is very fond of cisco and have harvested them until there aren’t anymore in the river.”

 

            “They have taken all the cisco out of the river?”  The king asked perplexed.

            “No sire, there are a few but the fisher-elves refuse to collect those in hope that the cisco can be plentiful once again” the aide replied.

 

            The king closed his eyes so he could concentrate on the problem at hand, “Thalinar are there still chubs in the river?”

 

            “Yes sire, apparently the humans aren’t fond of that type of fish because their numbers haven’t been reduced.” The aide replied.

 

            Oropher continued to think for a moment than opened his eyes and gazed behind him until he met his son’s eyes, “I want you to invite the leaders of Lake town to dinner tomorrow.”  Thranduil nodded and turned to leave, “and tell the head chief I want to see him on your way out”, Oropher added.  Thranduil bowed and left to carry out his father’s bidding.

 

            The next night found the king and prince in the main hall greeting the leaders of lake town.  “Ada, may I present Kirnen the leader of Lake town”, the prince announced.

            The man bowed before the king, “your highness it is an honor to meet you.  May I inquire why you have asked us to dine with you?”

 

            The elven king laughed, “Humans are so distrusting, worry not I only wish to speak to you of the river as we enjoy a delicious fish dinner.”  Once the party had entered the dinning hall and been served Oropher continued, “My son tells me that you are very fond of cisco?”

 

            Kirnen nodded, “Yes indeed sire and your kitchen serves a mouthwatering dish.  Do you think it would be possible to get the recipe before we left?”

 

            Oropher ignored the question and instead asked one of his own, “Are you aware of the fact that there are very few ciscos left in the river?”

 

            “Well, we do have more trouble getting them these days” Kirnen admitted nervously.

 

            Oropher still didn’t acknowledge his companions response but instead continued with his line of questioning, “Have you ever tried chub?”

 

            “Yeah, we tried it but didn’t like it much, had to throw a whole lot of it out”, Anorod, Kirnen’s advisor chirped.

 

            Oropher scowled internally but externally nodded politely than noted, “Your plates are empty, would you like some more?” At the affirmative nods Oropher signaled to the serving staff, which went to get a platter.  “Ah yes” Oropher said when the platter was brought out, “I should have warned you, the second helping always comes roasted whole, that won’t bother you will it?”

 

            “Oh, no that’s fine” Kirnen answered confidently so Oropher pulled the top off the platter revealing that the diners had been eating chub and not cisco.

 

            “Surprised?” the king asked smugly.  “Things aren’t always what they appear.  Now, let’s talk about you no longer harvesting cisco.”

 

            Kirnen blinked in surprise at the fish in front of him.  He seemed to remember the king addressing him so he raised his confused eyes to the sovereign, “I’m sorry your majesty, did you say something?”

 

            “I said that we need to discuss you no longer fishing for cisco.” The sovereign replied coldly.

 

            “But we enjoy them” Kirnen replied weakly.

 

            “I don’t care what you enjoy!!”  The king bellowed as his eyes lit with fury, “I will not allow you to fish the cisco until it disappears just because you want to eat it!

The king calmed somewhat and continued, “As you can see if prepared the correct way chub make a delicious dinner.  It is absolutely necessary that you start harvesting chub instead of cisco.  I’ll do everything I can to make the transition smoother, including having the chief give you the recipe and having our fishing personnel help you construct nets for catching chub.”

 

            The human contingent quickly agreed,  “Aye sire we will give in to your demands and switch to fishing for chub.”

 

End of flashback

 

            Aragorn looked at his friend confused, “Haven’t I eaten cisco at your father’s table?”

 

            Legolas smiled at his friend “Yes, but after 200 years of no harvest the ciscos became plentiful again and both humans and elves collect them in limited numbers.”

 

            Aragorn nodded but after a moment frowned at the prince, “Mellon nín, how do you know that story?  I know your old but you’re not that old.”

 

            Legolas smiled dangerously at his friend than cuffed him upside the head, “respect your elders, child” he mock growled “but you are right I wasn’t alive at that time, ada had it written down and insisted I study it as part of my education.”

 

            The king wrinkled his brow, “as a lesson in diplomacy?”

 

            The prince shook his head, “as a lesson of how easy it is to mislead humans.”  The king locked eyes with the prince for a moment before the two royals burst out laughing at the predictable nature of the Mirkwood king.  When the prince managed to sober he addressed the king, “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you the answers you seek.” 

 

            “It’s alright mellon nín, you were right I have to do this on my own.”  The king replied than slowed his pace a bit so he could have privacy to contemplate the situation at hand.

 

            When the party reached the hunting grounds Legolas slowed his pace and came up beside the king, “it looks just like that lake in Imladris does it not?”

 

            “Aye”, the king whispered back, “that it does”.  The king’s eyes grew teary because the area looked just like the place he had his first hunting lesson and brought a large number of memories to the surface.  The elf squeezed his shoulder in support than turned and left him to his thoughts. 

 

 

Flashback

“Come on Estel” Elrohir said as he gently nudged his little brother, “help us unpack the horses and then you can stare all you want.”

 

            The gentle prodding got the twelve year old human boy moving and he started unsaddling his horse.  As he turned to put the saddle down he caught a glimpse of the lake, “It is so beautiful here” the boy said with a gentle sigh.

 

            The twins exchanged a look than broke into identical smiles, “That it is little brother, that it is.  This is the same place we came on our first hunting trip.” Elladan supplied.

 

            “Really?” the boy asked.

 

            Elrohir smiled, “Really, in fact Elladan and I were just as awe struck as you are when Ada and Glorfindel brought us here.”

 

            The boy looked up from the pile of firewood, “Ada and Glor brought you on your first hunting trip?”

 

            Elladan could sense the boy’s disappointment so he added, “Yeah but they’ re not much fun, you’ll have a better time with us.”

 

            “I heard that Elladan.” came drifting from the woods behind the elf.

 

The sound of a voice behind him made the elder twin spin around.  “Ada?”

 

            From the other side of the camp came another familiar voice, “Really I thought we taught you two to be more alert.” Glorfindel declared as he entered the camp. “We’ve been following you all afternoon.”

 

            “Ada, Glorfindel!” the boy exclaimed from his place by the fire, “I thought you had important things to do at home.”

 

            Elrond walked over to his youngest son, “We did.”  When the boy turned confused eyes to him the elderly elf continued, “We accomplished our tasks in Imladris and now we are here to take care of the important task of teaching you how to hunt.”

 

            While the father and son discussed the dinner menu the twins converged on Glorfindel, “Didn’t trust us I see.” Elrohir said with a twinkle in his eye.

 

            “We trusted you to get the boy in trouble.” Glorfindel teased back than turned serious, “Shortly after you left your father started thinking about how short human lives are and how important this trip was to the boy so we rode out to join you.”

 

            Once the new arrivals had their horses unpacked the group sat down to dinner, “When are we going to hunt?” asked the anxious boy.

 

            Elrond smiled at his youngest, “We could go now as it is sundown but I think we’ll wait until morning.  As soon as you finish eating you need to get ready for bed.”  The boy started to protest but Elrond continued, “We’ll have to start very early in the morning and you’ll need your strength.”  The boy shot his father a rebellious look but the negative nods from his brothers caused him to acquiesce to his father’s desires and head off to bed.

 

            True to his word Elrond woke Estel early the next morning and the group headed to the hunting grounds where they concealed themselves among the branches of the trees.  Elrond crouched next to the young human to wait and soon the father and son were rewarded as a large herd of deer emerged from the forest.

 

            “There are so many, we won’t have to hunt for a long time.” Estel whispered to his father.

 

            Elrond smiled, “We must be careful to take only what we need my son.”

 

            “Since there are so many why can’t we take all we’re going to need for the year?” the boy asked.

 

            “There are several reasons we can’t little one.  First of all we don’t have a means to get all of the meat back home.  Secondly, other people may need some of this meat in the near future and we must always share with the other peoples of Middle Earth.  The last reason we can’t kill all these deer is that some must be left alive to ensure herds in the future.  Watch how Glorfindel and your brothers carefully select the deer to kill, being sure not to take any young females or fawns.”  True to the elf lords word Glorfindel and the twins each selected either a buck or an older doe as their prey.  Elrond than turned to his son, “which deer would you like to take?”

 

            The boy considered his choices carefully before finally replying, “The doe over on the edge of the herd, she seems to be alone and appears to have been around for awhile.”  The elf lord nodded his agreement and helped his son site in the doe.  As the pair walked to the kill the elf lord said the most important words to his son, “I’m very proud of you.”

 

 

End of Flashback

 

 

The fond memory faded and the king was left with the current situation, which

seemed so impossible, a portion of his kingdom was going to starve if they didn’t hunt these deer but if they hunted these deer there might no longer be Harad deer on Middle Earth.  The king was unsure what to do next so he leaned his head against his horse’s flank and drew comfort from the reassuring smell.

 

 

Flashback

 

            “My son Alagos* is getting old, is he not?” the elf lord inquired as the pair walked to the stable.

 

 

            “He is but I can’t bring myself to get another, Alagos and I have been through a lot.”

 

            The elderly elf smiled at his son’s loyalty for his mount, “I’m sure Alagos wouldn’t mind spending his days grazing if he knew you were being cared for by another of his kind.”  The conversation had lasted until they arrived at a stall in the stable that held a beautiful bay stallion.              The ranger looked from the horse to his father.  Elrond smiled, “He’s yours, it’s the offspring from my mare and Elladan’s stallion, we thought he’d keep you well.  Happy birthday Estel, may his endurance and strength keep you safe from the dangers which await you.”

 

            Aragorn reached out and gently stroked the horses’ nose, “thank you, he’s beautiful” the boy than reached out and enveloped his father in a hug,” I love you ada”.

 

 

End of flashback

 

“Ada” the king whispered into Roheryn’s coat, which was being soaked by the man’s tears, “what would you do if you were here?”  The desperation for the advice of his father caused the king to remember a conversation he had with the elf lord many years before.

 

 

Flashback

 

“Ada?” the ranger asked the elf occupying the other desk in the library.

 

            “Yes, ion non*?” the elf lord inquired in raising his head to meet his son’s eyes.

 

            “What is the most difficult thing about being the lord of a realm?”

 

            The elf lord considered for a minute then looked at the painting of his wife over the mantel, “Putting your desires aside in order to protect and provide for those in the realm.”  The ranger nodded solemnly and the elf lord continued, “But no matter what you have to sacrifice the rewards are always worth it”

 

 

End flashback

 

            The king raised his head, he knew what had to be done so he gave his horse a pat, squared his shoulders and walked over to the group of hunters. 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Sadaraszar saw the king approach and called, “Sire, with your leave we’re ready to get started.”

 

            The king looked at the men solemnly, “No.”

 

            The men appeared utterly confused and Sadaraszar inquired, “Excuse me my lord, what did you say?”

 

            “I said no, we’re not going to hunt them.” The king replied.

 

            “What are you going to let us starve?!” one of the hunters yelled.

 

            “No, but when the food is scarce we must eat a different type of food.” The king replied coolly.

 

            “There isn’t any other food!” the man raged.

 

            Ignoring the man Aragorn turned to his steward, “Faramir how long would it take to get livestock here from Minas Tirith?”

 

            The steward considered for a few moments then responded, “A month, if the message is sent by hawk otherwise six weeks.”

 

            The king nodded his head thoughtfully while the man continued to rant, “We have nothing to eat!  We’ll starve before the livestock arrive”

 

            The king walked up to face the angry man, “Have you so little faith in your king?” he asked sadly.  Than he turned back to his steward “Faramir how much meat would it take to feed Poros until the aid from Minas Tirith arrives?”

 

            The steward concentrated for a few moments, “I believe 1400 lbs would do sire.”

 

            The king nodded, “That’s what I thought as well.”  He then addressed the enraged man, “Sometimes you have to look for solutions in the most unexpected places.”  He closed his eyes for a moment then looked to his captain, “When we get back to Poros slaughter the horses and send a message to Minas Tirith by hawk requesting food, livestock and soldiers be sent to Poros immediately”.  The king turned back to those standing around him, “I’ll not let a type of creature be destroyed while there is an alternative.  This place will be set aside as a sanctuary for the Harad deer, none will be hunted until the herd grows so plentiful that they again run the plains of southern Ithilien.”

 

            After this announcement the men prepared themselves for the return to Poros and the king moved to gaze into the river.  “Heavy thoughts mellon nín?” Legolas asked as he came up behind his friend.

 

            Aragorn didn’t answer his friend’s question but instead countered with one of his own, “What do you think he would have done?”

 

            The elf narrowed his eyes at his friends back, “who?”

 

            “Ada, what would ada have done had he been here?”

 

            The elf sat down next to his friend, “I don’t know what your adar would have done.”  The rangers eyes came up to meet the elf’s, “what I do know is that he would be very proud of you”

 

            “Are you sure of that?” Aragorn asked warily, “I am letting people eat the horse he gave me.”

 

            Legolas gave his friend a sad smile, “Yes I’m sure he’d be proud of you”.  The ranger nodded but remained quiet so the elf continued, “Are you all right mellon nín?”

 

            Aragorn sighed, “I will be” he assured his friend.

 

            Legolas stood and slapped his friend on the back, “I knew you would”, he offered a hand to the king, “the men are ready, let us head back to Poros.” 

 

 

            One month later

 

            Legolas ran to catch up with the king of Gondor who was heading to the royal quarters, “Are things finished here?”

 

            Aragorn hadn’t heard the quiet approach of his friend and so he jumped at the sudden question.  Scowling the former ranger replied, “Yes, the livestock are all in pens or pastures, the preserve for the Harad deer has been established, and troops are patrolling the region.”  Aragorn closed his eyes and let out a tired sigh before continuing, “I’m weary mellon nín and I miss the white city and my wife, its time to go home.”

 

            The elf smiled and slapped his human friend on the back, “Then let us go, the horses are ready as is the guard.  If we leave immediately and ride hard I think we can reduce the seven day trip to four days and have us home in time for your birthday.”

 

            Aragorn smiled and looked sidelong at his friend, “mellon nín I don’t think my guards can keep that sort of pace.”

 

            Legolas walked past his friend into the stable and returned momentarily with two horses.  He gave the reigns of one horse to his friend and mounted the other, “so they don’t keep up.” He answered with a twinkle in his eye.

 

            The king smiled widely and mounted his own horse.  Just then Jauran, the head guard hurried toward the two friends, “It is important we all stay together. The roads are guarded but it never hurts to be careful my lord.”

 

            The king nodded solemnly to his captain, “Of course Jauran”.  As soon as the guards were mounted the group set off at an easy pace.  When they passed the gates of Poros the king and prince exchanged a covert look then spurred their horses into a gallop.

 

            “Slow down your majesty,” Jauran yelled to his king.

 

            “Sorry Jauran these horses have minds of their own” the king called back.

 

            The return trip went by quickly and late into the night of the fourth day the elf and human entered the gates of the seventh circle and slowly made their way to the citadel.  Aragorn quietly assured the guards that all was well as the pair crept toward the living quarters.  They were almost to their respective quarters when a light appeared followed shortly by a voice, ”What is this, an elfling and a child creeping in after curfew?”

 

            Both elf and man turned to face the greatest terror in the palace.  Legolas recovered first and bowed low, “My lady Arwen, how are you this fine evening?”

 

            Aragorn reacted slower but finally managed to get his body to follow his commands and walked to his wife.  He took her hands in his and kissed her passionately, “Arwen, I’ve missed you.  We didn’t want to wake you so we were being as quiet as possible.”

 

            “You didn’t need to be so careful, Hithgoroth woke me saying that two figures, which much resembled my husband and a wayward elven prince had just entered the city.  Where is your guard, Estel?”  Arwen inquired coolly.

 

            “About two days behind us.” The king answered quietly as he lowered himself onto the settee.

 

            Legolas stole a look at his friend and approached Arwen, “I know you’re angry we left the guard but Estel really did want to get home.  This trip has been difficult for him and he needs reassurance right now”.

 

            Arwen took a glance at her beloved then nodded to Legolas.  Walking to the king she held out her hand, “Come, you’re in need of rest.  Since you’re home safely it matters little how you got here, tomorrow you’ll relax and we’ll have a quiet celebration for your birthday.”

 

            The next morning broke bright and sunny and the king of Gondor awoke with new appreciation for his home.  The trip around his kingdom had made him realize that there were challenges everywhere but they were easier to deal with when he had the love and support of his wife.  By the time he had awoken Arwen was already up so Aragorn dressed quickly and went to find his beloved.  When he pushed open the door to the private dinning room he was greeted by some unexpected guests.

 

            “Good morning, Estel.” Elrohir called.

 

            “Decided to finally grace us with your presence, I thought we were going to have to get you up.’  Elladan taunted with a gleam in his eye.

 

            Aragorn looked between his brothers and his wife as his tired mind tried to make sense of what he was seeing, “Why are you here?” he finally asked.

 

            “What you don’t want us here?” Elrohir asked with mock indignation.

 

            “No!” the human shouted as he shook his head desperately trying to clear the cobwebs, “That’s not what I meant, I just didn’t expect you here”.

 

            Legolas laughed and walked to the hapless humans’ side, “Don’t tease him first thing in the morning, you know that when they first wake up human brains work as fast as honey flows in winter.”

 

            Aragorn lunged at his friend but Legolas easily dodged.  The twins approached their human brother and Elladan put his hands on the human’s shoulders, “We came because it’s your birthday and because Arwen said you’ve been through a difficult time”.

 

            Aragorn grabbed both twins and brought them in for a tight embrace,  “I’m so glad you’re here.”

 

            “Arwen told us about the preserve, we’d like to see it while we’re here.” Elrohir mumbled into his brother’s hair.

 

            Aragorn pulled back and looked at his brothers sadly, “I suppose but I have to find a new mount first.”

 

            “I think we may be able to help with that,” Elladan said cryptically.  Aragorn looked at his eldest brother with hopeful eyes, “after you’ve eaten something young one”.  Aragorn stuck his tongue out at his brother but sat down and made quick work of his breakfast.

 

            Wiping his mouth the human addressed his brothers, “Now can you tell me what you brought me?”

 

            The twins burst out laughing at the puppy-dog face of their younger brother, “still up to the same tricks I see.” Elrohir laughed, “Elladan didn’t he look exactly the same when he was five and we had returned from Lorien with a gift for him.”

 

            “Yes, brother he did, I guess young ones never grow up.”  Elladan agreed with a smirk.

 

            “Okay, okay I’ll never grow up.  Can I see what you brought me now?” Aragorn pleaded.

 

            “All right little brother we’ll take you to your present” Elrohir conceded.  The entire party rose and followed the twins through the city.  The journey ended at the stables, which they entered and moved to a stall which housed a beautiful buckskin stallion. 

 

            Aragorn gently stroked the stallion’s nose then looked at his bothers, “This is ada’s horse” he said sadly.

 

            Elladan reached forward to stroke the horse’s flank, “yes it was.  We want you to have him.”  Aragorn started to protest but was stopped by a signal from the eldest twin, “Please take him, ada would want you to have him.”

 

            Elrohir came up beside his twin, “We are so proud of you Estel and we know that ada will be as well please accept him and may he keep you well.”

 

            The king raised by elves stroked the horse’s nose once more than turned to his brothers with tears in his eyes, “Thank you”.  The sentiment of which caused both twins to immediately envelop their little brother in hugs.

 

            Elrohir stroked his brother’s hair and replied, “Your very welcome little one”.

 

            “Now will you take us to see your preserve?” Elladan asked.

 

            “Yes, of course.  Let’s gather some supplies and then we’ll be off.” The king replied and turned to walk to the palace when a hand on his arm stopped him.

 

            “Not yet” Arwen insisted, ‘this is the first year the people can celebrate your birthday Estel, don’t ruin their party by disappearing.  After the party you may go and I won’t even insist you take the guard.”

 

            So it was settled and the day after the party three elves and the king of Gondor set out for new formed refuge.  After several days of riding the party reached the refuge and the first sight which met their eyes was a small herd of Harad deer drinking out of the river.  The king and his eldest brother were mesmerized by the sight when suddenly an un-elven shriek was heard behind them followed by uncontrollable laughter, the combination of which caused the herd to bolt across the plain.

 

            “Legolas that wasn’t funny” Elrohir hissed as he tucked wet hair behind his ear.

 

            “It wasn’t my fault the tree dumped its dew all over you,” Legolas replied innocently.

 

            “It wasn’t?” Elrohir asked sarcastically, “Then what exactly were you talking to the tree about?”

 

            “Let it go Ro, you needed a bath anyway” Elladan commented nonchalantly.

 

            Elrohir lifted his head to make a rebuttal but was speechless as soon as he saw the beauty which surrounded them.  His eyes took in the chartreuse and dark green of the trees, the variety of flowers, the various types of birds and mammals then looked at his younger brother.  “You’ve done well Estel, Ada would be proud”.

 

            “He certainly would” Elladan chimed as he dismounted.

 

Aragorn followed his elder brother’s lead and got off his horse.  He buried his head in the horse’s coat and thought “Yes, the reward was well worth the sacrifice.”

 

 

Epilogue

 

Years and years later a very deserving human king and queen were granted entrance to Valinor where they were reunited with friends and family.  One day the human king pulled an elven lord aside to make a confession.

 

“Ada . . .” the human attempted.

 

Elrond met his son’s uncertain eyes, “yes, Estel?”

 

Aragorn sighed and looked anywhere but his father’s eyes, “I let some people slaughter Roheryn”.

 

Elrond had to hold his tongue as he now knew what was on his child’s mind but he also knew that Aragorn had to get this off his chest. “Why did you do that?”

 

Aragorn took another deep breath, “the people of Poros had run out of food and it was down to hunting the last of the Harad deer or eating the horses.  I let them eat the horses and set up a preserve for the deer.”

 

“Did the deer become plentiful again?” the elf lord asked trying to get the story out and cleanse his son’s soul.

 

Aragorn smiled, “Yes, ada just ten years later they were more plentiful then ever and that example caused many more preserves to be created around Middle Earth”.

 

“My son” Elrond said gently, “Roheryn was just a gift, one given in love but still a gift which ultimately served a greater purpose.  The greatest gift I was ever able to give you was your love and respect for the natural world.  It was that gift which caused you to act thusly and I couldn’t be more proud.”

 

Aragorn smiled widely, “You know you were right, the rewards were worth the sacrifices.”

 

Elrond laughed and put his arm around his foster son’s shoulders as they walked back toward the colony.

End

 

Translations:

 

Wain – wagon

Mellon nín – my friend

Alagos – windstorm

ion non – my son