3. Echoes of M
Fall, F. A. 119
Eldarion's morning was a typically pleasant mixture of reviewing reports on the building of a new city at the foot of Amon Sul, playing with his two-year old son, and interrupting his wife's weaving with an occasional kiss.
But today was not to be a normal day. Arwen came to his house, unannounced and with grave countenance.
"Ion nin, the King summons you."
The King? Not 'your father'?
Without a further word, Eldarion left his house and began the short walk to the Citadel.
"Naneth, have things worsened?"
Arwen, who had walked beside him as one lost, startled. "He is no weaker than yesterday or last week. No, ion nin, it is not that - not yet. Forgive me for my lack of words. It is enough to say that it is a great matter." She said no more.
King Elessar sat erect upon the throne, in fuller regalia than was his wont for private meetings. The Winged Crown still sat well upon his white head, and the grip of the hand that held the Sceptre of Annuminas and bore the Ring of Barahir was still firm. Before him, Anduril lay sheathed upon a low table of marble. But he did wait until his son approached closely before standing and dismissing his guards. The Queen followed the guards, leaving father and son alone.
"Eldarion, my son, well you know that I cannot remain with you much longer."
"I know it. But this morn, the King has summoned me. Since the King is informal with his son, and the Queen usually delivers such summons with a simple 'Atar wishes to see you', I am troubled. Is there ill news?"
Aragorn would have laughed, had the circumstances allowed it. It seemed his life would be a thing out of a fantastic tale, to its last day. I must play it to the end, I suppose.
"News, but not ill. No assault upon our borders, no grave developments. I did not call you here to announce intent to accept the Gift, if that is what you feared. I am old indeed, but still have some time left to me."
Eldarion, though curious, did not immediately answer. But his father merely stood before him with his characteristic appraising gaze.
"I am pleased that the news is not ill. But I will not venture to guess what it may be."
"Well answered, ion nin. You need my advice no longer."
"Yet I would still have it, as long as you remain to give it."
Aragorn smiled. He and Arwen had had but one son, but none could wish for a finer. He lifted the Sceptre and looked upon the Ring, before turning to his son.
"Then you are indeed ready to be King. The news, then, is that I wish to give these things to you. Now, or soon. Well before I die. I would wear a cloak again, and walk the lands as I once did, if only to Ithilien. With your mother. What say you?"
"I would deny you nothing, Father. But I would ask, do you wish to resign unnanounced?"
Aragorn sighed inwardly. Though the blood of Numenor had been better preserved in the North, its traditions had been better retained in the South. Fastidiously, and part of the King's duties was upholding them.
"I suppose, son, that I have not shed the Ranger entirely even yet. Though I would gladly give you Sceptre, Ring and Crown tomorrow before the people of this city, it would be better to make a formal announcement before the assembled outland lords. Yestare would suit. And your coronation should be at Midsummer."
"So says the King. But I, Aragorn son of Arathorn, say that from this day forth, you will be King of this land in fact if not name, and all decisions in matters of state shall be yours, if you accept the charge. Do you accept it?"
Eldarion knelt. "I accept, Atarinya. All in these lands hold you in esteem and gratitude. My only fear is that my own reign will be the lesser, and that if I should stand before my own son one day and speak has you have, he will not be able to say the same of me."
Aragorn embraced his son. "If you keep the last of those thoughts in mind as you rule, I do not think you need fear, Eldarion."
The elder stood back, but still gripped his son's shoulders. "Remember that the people were surprised that war continued so long after Sauron was defeated. Though you may not have heard the words spoken openly, in your youth it was far from true that 'all' held me in esteem. Some said I led or ordered far too many men to unnecessary deaths. Perhaps with justice, though it was necessary to win the peace and prosperity that we now enjoy."
Now the old King sat down. "You understand these things, but still I would say them. Truly I have wearied of the burden of rule. I could not have borne it much longer. So, son, I thank you. Valar willing, you have just given me another year. Though I will accept the Gift before my strength fails utterly, I do not wish to hasten that day's arrival."
"Atar, I do not know what to say to such words."
Aragorn hesitated for a moment, and decided. "You have already said all I needed to hear. But I need some time to consider these matters - what I should do. Though I already feel the lifting of the burden, I cannot be certain of living another nine months. Perhaps it would be better to keep my resignation altogether secret. Some fools would take it ill, if I should die between the announcement and your formal accession. Nor do I wish to be put in the position of clinging to life to await your coronation, should my time come before it. Given my age, it is unwise to delay acceptance of the Gift for any reason."
"My words today were for your ears alone. Repeat them to no one, unless it be your own son, when you are old. That time is yet very far off, I guess. Certainly you look much younger than I did at one hundred eight years. I cannot know whether that is due to my decades of wandering in the Wild, or to the blood of your mother." Though I would wager my weight in gold that it is the latter.
"Your burdens will now be heavier, though they will not begin in earnest until the next Council, two weeks from today. In the meantime, I would have you give Halloreth and Thorongil all your attention. It may be your last opportunity to do so."
Aragorn stood once more. "Eldarion Elessarion, you entered as a Prince, and leave as the King, though crownless for the moment. Once a little fellow told me that I needed no crown to be the true King. He spoke truly, and equally so it shall be for you. May this be the beginning of a great reign."
Thus dismissed, Eldarion bowed, turned and left the hall. Aragorn smiled as he watched the new (true) King of Gondor depart. After composing himself for a few minutes, he headed for his chambers, where Arwen awaited.
A/N: Obviously Aragorn's suspicion that he might not live to Midsummer proved correct. "M" is Meneldur, King of Numenor and father of Aldarion (UT). Yestare is the old Gondorian (midwinter) New Year. Much thanks to Anglachel for fleshing out this holiday in her stories.
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