It is chilly in the northern wilderness most mornings, even in summer, and today is no exception. Later it will be scorching hot, but for now, I shiver as I make my way to the first cabin. The cup of tea the night watch gave me helps, but sunlight will help more.
Opening the door, I stick my head in and in my stern commander’s voice say, “Up with you now, muster in five.” Groans and mumbled curses answer me.
The next cabin is much the same, same as it always has been. Even on a day such as this, soldiers awake as they always have, and I suppose always will.
By the time I reach the last cabin, the men in it are already awake, and the men from the first are up and about. The camp quickly settles into its morning routine as it always has, taking no heed of our guests. Within minutes, the company is milling about, awaiting my command to form up for the raising at sunrise.
Looking at the eastern sky, I judge the time to be right and give the command, “Assemble for the raising of the flag.” With little fuss or noise, the company is standing in neatly spaced rows, exactly in front of our flagpole.
I notice a movement in the corner of my eye. Turning my head, I see him step out of his cabin. He seems taller now, though I have known him since I was a lad. He was the perfect Ranger then, the one we all tried to be; he looks the perfect King now, though you can never completely wash the Ranger out of a man.
I try not to stare, but she is so beautiful, my eyes linger for as long as I dare as the Queen joins him. Even in trousers, boots, and an old gray Ranger sweater, with the sleeves rolled up, as it is several sizes too large, she is a jewel.
As soon as the Queen is at his side, they stride over and take places on either side of me. Bracketed by royalty, I feel nervous as a schoolboy standing to read a difficult piece. The feeling passes as the first blazing gold of the Sun breaks the horizon, and routine takes over.
“Attention!” I bark, and the company, including King and Queen, stand erect facing the pole.
“Hoist the colors.” I command.
The trumpeter sounds the royal fanfare, the flagman hauls on the rope, and the King’s Standard goes up the pole at our little Ranger camp.
I am not ready for the tingling chill that sweeps over me. Tears come to my eyes as I see the Standard of Elendil unfurl in the morning breeze for the first time in my life. It is hard to believe than an old Ranger can be moved to tears by something so simple, but this is what we fought for all my life, all my father’s life, and his fathers’ before him. This is why there are so many good Rangers buried in hidden graves across Eriador. It is more than a piece of cloth. Our King is more than a man with a jewel on his brow. He and this flag say that we, The Faithful, have triumphed in the end, we own this land, we govern ourselves, and we will pass our way of life on to our sons and our daughters.