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"… Yet I would not have you remain like a beggar at the door." – Imrahil on Aragorn's decision to put tents on the fields.
"Not a beggar," said Aragorn. "Say a captain of the Rangers, who are unused to cities and houses of stone."
(Lord of the Ring: The Return of the King)
(Chapter: The Houses of Healing)
The silence was deafening.
Aragorn heaved a sigh and rose from his bed. Sleep would not come to him. He was given all the comforts a Man could ask for. The fire blazed merrily. The open window gave him fresh air. The bed was soft, and the silence would have been welcome if any other Man was in his place. But he was no ordinary Man.
Here the wind blowing into his room only beckoned him to the life he once knew, to the life he would give up as a king. He remembered the throbbing heat of the Sun and the silver light of the Moon, to sleep curled in a cloak over a bed of grass or a bed of stones. He doubted he would ever live such a life again. It was a hard life, but even in Imladris, his heart yearned for the Wild.
"Like Túrin, son of Húrin," Erestor once remarked on his restlessness. But Elrond was not pleased.
"Say rather, a son of Dúnedain; Túrin's fate is not one I would wish on any of my sons."
Aragorn was certainly not uncouth when it came to the matters of nobility and royalty. He was taught well, able to disguise himself among the common folk and yet remember the etiquettes to move among the higher ranks. But those who knew him remarked that no matter what he wore, his gaze was uncanny, and he wore his power and lineage like a Man would wear a cloak.
The guard standing outside his rooms stood at alert in his presence, but he waved him away. He would be old and feeble before he needed a guard to follow his steps. A nearby side garden served its purpose; with the sweet fragrance of flowers and the sound of crickets.
"I was not expecting to have company."
"I was not expecting the gardens to be occupied, Master Frodo." Aragorn sat beside the Hobbit. He felt pity for the Hobbit. The journey had taken a toll on him. The burden of the Ring was lifted but the Hobbit seemed more distant. Frodo was always cautious, soft-spoken, with bravery that was not seen at the surface, like a young lord who was given too much responsibility before his time.
"It is a peaceful place."
"Aye, it is."
They sat in quiet companionship. Then Frodo's hand reached up.
"The wound will never heal." Aragorn said. Frodo's hand dropped from the place Shelob poisoned him.
"I know, the Lords Elrohir and Elladan told me." The fountain before them was not working. The water pooled in the lowermost basin, moonlight reflecting on the surface like white gems in an Elven King's treasury. "How am I to address you? The name 'Strider' does not seem to leave my tongue."
"You may address me however you wish. It was you, not I, who walked into Mount Doom and destroyed the Ring."
"I did not do it. Gollum was the one."
"I know. But the purpose was the same."
"Gandalf was right, you know. Gollum had some part to play after all; for good or evil. In the end, he was Smeagol rather than Gollum."
"What has kept you awake?"
"I cannot believe it is done." Frodo's hand went over to the stump of the finger that bore the One Ring. It was still bandaged. "The heat was too great, and the air was hard to breathe in Mount Doom. It is still vivid in my waking as well as in my dreams."
Aragorn clasped the four-fingered hand in both of his own.
"You could have sat in silence during the Council of Elrond. Had you done so, you would not be here."
"And the Ring might not be destroyed."
"There were bare chances even then."
"I do not regret any of it. And what of you? What keeps you from dreams?"
"My kingdom it seems; and my yearning to join the Wild."
"You will have Men you can trust. Sam speaks highly of the Steward. He says he reminds him of Gandalf, only younger."
"The Men of Minas Tirith under his command say he reminded them of kings of old."
"Is that not a good thing?"
"I hope. And if it were not, then Gondor will learn to live on, even if I bring ruin to it."
"Doubt in oneself would bring nothing but ruin, Strider."
"And how did you come by such wisdom?"
"I would not have reached Mount Doom without it."
"You have become wise from your experience." Aragorn touched the Hobbit's shoulder.
"I think all of us are, even Pippin. If an Elf and a Dwarf can form an unbreakable friendship then I suppose anything is possible."
Aragorn's laugh echoed in the air. Frodo was smiling as well.
"I should go. Sam would look into my room and find me gone. He would worry."
"He is a loyal friend." Frodo rose from the bench.
"He kept me on my feet all the way to Mount Doom. I would not worry, Aragorn." Frodo said. "You will be a great king. I am sure."
"And what of my love for the Wild?"
Frodo paused in thought.
"I expect… I suppose one always cherishes the things that have turned to nothing but memories. I cherish my childhood, but I suppose I would be sorry if I missed the chance to do something good for all of Middle-Earth, even if I can't go back to the way my life was." With that Frodo left.
When Aragorn returned to his rooms, sleep came easily.
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