Return of the Ranger
2. The Reveal
AN: Those who thought that the first chapter was complete in and of itself, you can read or not as pleases you. I had enough requests for a continuation that I wrote this bit to finish the story. Please note this is the end!
The King was in Bree, and Barliman Butterbur's inn was overflowing. Talk was free, and ale just as cheep as most of the town and a good deal of the surrounding lands crammed into the common room of the Prancing Pony. In the crush of folk, Big and Little, one small hobbit was almost overlooked.
"Now see here, Peregrin Took!" a crotchety old gaffer singled out one of the younger hobbits. "Where do you get off wearing that gear? Why, that's no sensible way for a hobbit to dress."
"I'm not just a hobbit, Gaffer," Pippin replied, sticking out his chest and straightening to his full height, a good three inches taller than most of the Little Folk could boast. "I am a knight of Gondor on the King's business. Where is the innkeeper?"
"Barliman!" Jack Harvester called, laughing. "This little one's too far in his cups; says he's a knight of the realm!"
The young hobbit, dressed as one of the Tower Guard ignored the taunting, turning instead to the large man bustling over. "Barliman Butterbur," Pippin began with a slight bow. "The King Elessar bids you good day and wishes to speak with you."
"Why me, I'm naught but an innkeeper?" Butterbur asked, worried. Had Strider reported his criticism to the king last night? Was that why he was now being summoned?
"I do not know, sir, but I believe he wishes to give you thanks," Pippin replied. The hobbit then turned away to salute the two old guardsmen nearby. "My Lords Alcarin and Tarannon, I am to tell you that the Eagle of the Star calls you once again to his service."
Alcarin and Tarannon exchanged shocked glances. "Thorongil," Tarannon whispered before both men launched to their feet and took up flanking positions behind a startled innkeeper.
Unsteady on his feet, Barliman Butterbur followed the knight barely half his height to the large tent that had been set up on the outskirts of town. The sun near to blinded the large man as he had not left his inn in many days and the shadows of the tent they entered finished the job. Darting a quick look up at the throne, Butterbur could make out the form of a man, but not his face. The cloak wrapped about the man's shoulders was held in place with two broaches. On his right shoulder, a silver eagle, wings outstretched, clasped in its talons a clear green stone, the source, had Butterbur only known it, of the King's reign-name, Elessar. On the man's left shoulder, slightly dulled by age, was set a broach in the shape of a star. It was this broach that drew gasps from both of the old campaigners behind Barliman.
Pippin marched up to the seated figure and nodded his respect. "My Lord Elessar," the hobbit announced, "Barliman Butterbur, and my Lords Alcarin and Tarannon, as you requested." Finished with his duties, the small knight took his place behind and to the left of the throne.
"Well met, Barliman Butterbur," an almost familiar voice called from the shadows, and the corpulent innkeeper knew his King addressed him.
"W- Well met, Your Majesty," he managed to stammer out, bowing low.
"There's no need to stand on ceremony, Barliman," the King chuckled, "not for such as you."
Far from reassuring him, that only frightened Butterbur even more. He hastened to excuse himself. "If this is about what I said last night, Your Majesty, I don't know how that Strider put it to you, but you must know I meant no harm. Folk will talk, and I join them without thought. I certainly didn't mean to slander Your Majesty in any way-"
"Peace, innkeeper," Elessar soothed. "I know exactly in how much reverence you hold me, and what form that reverence takes. Look at me, Barliman." Butterbur dared lift his eyes, meeting Strider's usual smirk. "Have we not always been honest with each other?" the Ranger finished.
"Strider!" he exclaimed. "Why, where's the King?" The rest of the tent laughed at that.
"You forgetful old fool," Pippin gasped through his laughter, "This is the King! We told you who he was when we came back."
"He is? You did?" the man screwed up his face, trying to remember. "One thing pushes out another and I've clean forgot."
"And I thank you for that forgetting," Elessar stood and walked up to the innkeeper, looking deep into his eyes. "You let me be Strider in your inn last night, Barliman, and that is a gift beyond price for one such as I." A genuine smile lit the tired face. "Besides, I thought your suggestion a good one."
"My suggestion?" Butterbur repeated as the King swept past him.
"Well, Alcarin," Elessar greeted, placing a hand on the stunned guardsman's shoulder. "Did I not tell you that you would fight for me, if you would but be patient?"
"My Lord Thorongil," the old soldier bowed his head. "I did not know. You look so . . . young."
Thorongil threw his head back and laughed. "Not so young as that, Captain," he answered. "I can count eighty-nine years to my life, almost twice that of a sapling such as yourself."
The guardsman looked over his elderly form, then surveyed the figure of his Captain and King who wore the years far lighter than he should. "Varda give you life in keeping with your looks," he murmured to a warm smile from the King.
"Wait, Thorongil?" the neglected innkeeper spoke up, thoroughly confused. "But I thought you were Strider – and – and the King -"
"And Estel and Aragorn," Elessar finished. "I have been called all that and more. What name you know me by does not change who I am."
"Well that's it; I'll never keep it straight now." Barliman Butterbur shook his head to the amusement of all.
AN: Well? Did the end live up to the beginning? Tell me!
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.