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Chapter 1: The Eyes of the King
In the meanwhile the host made ready for the return to Minas Tirith. The weary rested and the hurt were healed. For some had laboured and fought much with the remnants of the Easterlings and Southrons, until all were subdued. And, latest of all, those returned who had passed into Mordor and destroyed the fortresses in the north of the land.
‘The Field of Cormallen’, The Return of the King
The brothers Delumîr and Caladîr gasped, exchanged amazed glances, and hurried to where the richly-garbed man stood. As one, they quickly knelt. This man had once been the Lord Aragorn, who had led them to the Black Gate, but before them now surely stood the King Returned, as the rumors in Minas Tirith had spoken. A light flickered about his head from the star on his brow, and the green jewel on his breast blazed even under a clouded sun.
“I beg you rise,” Aragorn said softly. “The Eagles brought word of your approach from the north. On behalf of all Free Peoples, we are grateful for your service, and take joy in your safe return.” He sheathed Andúril and pressed a hand to his heart.
The men slowly rose, and Caladîr, the elder, stepped forward.
“Sire,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady, “we are honored by your welcome. We completed the task set for us, and the remaining strongholds near to the broken gates have been burned. Before returning, we worked to clear a great deal of filth and obstructions from the streams thereby.”
“You have done admirably,” Aragorn said. “We will feast you and your men this eve.” He smiled gently. “And I deem that baths would not be unwelcome.”
Delumîr blushed, and self-consciously brushed his hands down his tunic such that clouds of dust began to fall. “We would be most grateful for that. But sire...” He looked puzzled. “You called us captains, but we are but men at arms of the fourth company. Were you expecting someone else?”
“No,” Aragorn said firmly. “You are last to arrive in camp, but far from the least in my esteem. You were the first to volunteer to stay behind amidst the ruin of a poisoned land when the host departed, not knowing how long you would be away from your families. I have eyes in many directions, and know that you both labored long and tirelessly. You demonstrated self denial and generosity by sharing your rations with those of lesser vigor, and on the long road back you kept the spirits of your companions from faltering. As your sovereign, I declare your new rank as well-earned. You will march in the King’s Guard just behind me and the hobbits when we approach Minas Tirith.”
The men’s faces shone with amazement and delight, and both bowed deeply.
“We are grateful, sire,” said Caladîr. “Proudly will we do so.”
“You do us great honor, my liege,” Delumîr said softly, and bent his head to hide his swelling emotions. Did you know how desperately our families need the extra coin such a promotion will bring? Perhaps so. And when he looked up, the King was smiling at him.
“Why did you come this way?” Aragorn asked. “There are more direct paths to the main encampment.”
“Sire,” Caladîr said hesitantly, “forgive us if we are trespassing in a restricted area. We asked the sentries, and they said that the Ring-bearers may be found in yonder grove. Would it be permitted... I mean, might we...”
“You wish to meet Frodo and Samwise,” Aragorn said, and the men shook their heads.
“Nay, sire,” Caladîr hastened to explain. “We merely hoped to linger here awhile, unseen amidst these trees, and perhaps catch a glimpse of them. We would not presume to approach them.”
“Have you sent your men to be welcomed and quartered, and your horses tended?”
“We have,” Caladîr said.
“Then come with me,” Aragorn said, motioning to the beech-grove.
“To see the Ring-bearers?” Delumîr asked in surprise. “What would we say to them?”
“Frodo and Samwise are worthy of all honor, and I understand that you might hesitate, having heard about them only through rumor,” Aragorn said, “but they would not wish to be spied upon from a distance, nor thought of as unapproachable. It is as hobbits that they won through to the Fires of Doom, and it is as hobbits that they wish to be known.” He gazed at the men gravely. “If in generations to come it is remembered that even small, frightened, and vulnerable beings could survive such a journey and the hardships they endured, perhaps it will be understood that any road can be walked and any goal is worthy of attempt, if one pledges to be steadfast. The hobbits will always remind us that the love of one’s home, and one’s friends and family, can inspire greatness.”
“We understand,” Delumîr said quietly, and Caladîr added, “For what else were we all fighting, if not our homes and family?”
“So you see,” Aragorn told them, “you are not so different from them after all.” He knew that while it was important for the hobbits to be treated with respect, it would hurt them deeply to be set apart, or seen as unapproachable by any of the men with whom they would be spending the next weeks... and possibly longer. “Can you now greet them with understanding, and a wish for friendship?” he asked, and the men nodded.
“Then come. I will introduce you. But please, gentlemen, do not kneel before Frodo and Sam. I tried that, and it made them terribly uncomfortable.”
“May we bow?” Delumîr asked.
“You may. I am certain they are used to that by now.”
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