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(Thank you to Tanaqui, RiverOtter, and Gwynnyd for their beta assistance.)


You smile so freely! How you delight in the warmth of your mother's arms, in the doting gaze of your grandfather at her side. You are loved, and you know it.

If I did not know better I might guess that you already enjoyed the warm words the lords and ladies have for your mother, and the cheers of the crowd when your father named you before them not an hour ago. That would truly make you your father's son. Do not let his stern eyes fool you! He would never admit it, but I see it in his face: he covets the admiration of his people.

He is worthy of all their love. He has done more to prove his worth to them than I, though they love me more. Do you know what the people sing from their windows and along the streets, when we return from campaign? "Ecthelion's son has killed his thousands, and Thorongil of the North his tens of thousands". I wish they would let that song die, even if it is true. I do not fight for glory, but for Gondor and for the freedom of the West. And it stirs discontent in your father's heart.

But you, Boromir... would you have the women take up the call when you return triumphant? Is that why you would spill blood? The hand that rests so peacefully against your mother's breast will all too soon grasp a sword. Even orcs were not always evil.

You have not even seen Anduin yet, have you? Your grandfather will show you soon enough, and your father will teach you to float in the shallows where the waters lap the shores gently enough not to whisk you away from him. If you follow the river south south you will come to the land of your mother's kin, Dol Amroth with her silver swan on a field of blue, her tall men and noble horses and proud ships.

But you would perhaps see other sailors sailing under a different flag: black Númenoreans, the Corsairs of Umbar. Yet some share more blood with Elendil than do you, young prince. When you are older your tutors will tell you of the Kinslaying. How Eldacar, the rightful king of Gondor, drove Castamir and his traitorous followers south, into Harad. But they would have been your brothers-in-arms once upon a time, and many of your countrymen would have gladly accepted their leader as king. King! Can you believe that? Yet the story is true.

And what if you travelled the other way? Past the stone kings who mark Gondor's ancient borders, past Rohan, north and north, and then west or east... there you would find dangers of a different sort. Trolls and spiders and wargs and other foul beasts that roam the wild. Also Elves to bewitch you, dwarves to tempt you with their wealth, men who do not fight under your house's banner. Your father will warn you against all these things someday. Will he also speak of those lands' unkempt majesty? I doubt it, but that does not make it untrue.

The line of lords and ladies waiting to meet you snakes forward, and I with it. Prince Théoden of Rohan stands at my side; we are perhaps the oldest men in this room unaccompanied by family. He left his wife in Rohan -- she was too far with child to travel safely -- but do not worry, I am sure you will meet her someday. And just think, you will have a fine friend to play with whenever you travel to visit the horse-lords.

She is a noble lady, Elfhild, but I am not sorry for her absence. With Théoden at my side the ladies of Gondor keep their distance, and for once I am allowed a measure of peace. These ladies will not give you a score of years before they begin to harass you as well.

May you never be cursed by the fates as I am. Bound to a woman who will not have you... And the pain of lost love does not protect me from other women who would still make me their husband. And they are so persistent! It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife, or so I have been told often enough by the countless women who have offered to root me in Gondor through marriage.

Your mother shifts you in her arms, rocking back slightly onto her heel. I can see a slight grimace on her face, a weary look. What sacrifices our mothers make for us sons! My own did not mention her dead husband's name for twenty years. Did you know that? Simply to keep me safe. She let me come of age believing myself a bastard, and she would not tell me for whom she cried in the dark silences of the night.

Even here, even if the words were heard by you alone -- I would not name him. I would not throw away her sacrifice so lightly. I carry his name in my heart, Arathorn, and know that I am far from fatherless, even if I once thought that was the case. Your mother loves you no less than mine did me; I see it in her eyes. Fate does not demand so great a sacrifice of her, but she would give it if she had to.

And now that it is our turn to stand before you, I see something in your eyes and your actions. You grasp Théoden's gift, a horse that rattles when you shake it, with a strength that surprises me. When your mother tries to take it away to hand it to the nursemaid standing by who is collecting such gifts, you will not let go! Suddenly your name springs to my mind: faithful jewel. Is that what your father wishes for you? Would he take the light of the stars and lock it in crystal like Fëanor did so long ago? Is this what he means by protecting and preserving?

I feel a chill travel down my spine. You ask so much of me! If you were the son of any other man I would smile at this possessive strength of yours, but you are not most men. One day you will rule my kingdom, and I see more of Castamir than Anárion in you.

Yet I know I can do nothing to change the situation. Not unless I would claim the throne now. Should I? Something tells me the hour is not come. I will try my best to trust that the Valar will preserve my inheritance, that they will guide your hand. And I shall hope you will one day have a brother of a different mood, one who -- like Mardil with Eärnur -- may give you counsel and temper your inclinations. Perhaps we lesser beings can help the Valar in our own way. Perhaps Mithrandir can check in on you and teach you some of the wisdom he has taught me.

With that thought, I muster my kindest smile and bow before you, letting my eyes sparkle with the mirth I usually keep hidden. "Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo, my prince," I say.

And you smile at that, wider than you have all this time that I have watched you. A child who delights in the ancient tongue? Or do you simply love the northern shape of my voice? Regardless, your father's prejudices do not blind you like they do him. Perhaps there is hope for you yet.



Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo is Quenya for "A star shines on the hour of our meeting".

At two points Aragorn is apparently channelling thinkers who lived much later than himself. The line about a single man needing a wife is of course the first line of Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice. Likewise, the song Aragorn remembers is not from Tolkien, but instead from the Bible. A bit of context:

The women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang:

"Saul has slain his thousands
and David his tens of thousands.

Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?" And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David."

(1st Samuel 18:6-9, NIV)


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