“King Elessar,” murmured the man, studying his own weathered face in the mirror. His hand reached out to touch the reflection, assuring himself that it was truly his own image—both familiar and strange—that he saw. He was alone, having dismissed his servants so that he might find a rare moment of solitude. They had been happy to oblige, for they understood their liege’s need for a moment of privacy; it wasn’t everyday that a man became a king.
Although he was unaccustomed to rattled nerves, he felt them now, for his coronation was only moments away. It was not the idea of negotiating trade or rebuilding the White City that overwhelmed him; it was the vast need of the people themselves. With a sudden surge of nausea, Aragorn realized that their plaintive faces would continue to look to him for answers.
Whether his supplication was truly meant for the Valar or for his own ears alone mattered little; Aragorn bowed his head, whispering into the silence the secrets of his heart:
“In the healing of injury and illness am I well versed—Lord Elrond taught me well—but it is not only broken bodies to which I must now tend. No, my people require healing of a different sort: the mending of heart and mind. For such a task, I am woefully unprepared. Am I truly to be a light unto these people? It is laughable! Armies of Men I can lead, but how do I comfort my subjects? The joyous bride now grieves in her widowhood; the carefree child now frets over the smallest matter; the peaceful man now attacks with little warning. How do I learn to look past this desolation and cling to a vision of what this land will be once more?”
An answer flew so quickly and silently through his mind, that had he not been still, he would have missed it: Let it begin with you, Elessar. Let it begin with you. It is your own wounded heart that you must first mend.
The thought both stunned and comforted him, yet he knew the words to be true; he had done little to tend to his own pain, so occupied had he been during the war’s aftermath. In fact, he had been so busy that he had not even been aware of how much his heart grieved. Now it threatened to overwhelm him at this most inconvenient time.
A knock on the door alerted him. “King Elessar,” came Gandalf’s voice, “it is time.”
“I will be right there.” Aragorn hoped the wizard had not noticed the quake in his voice.
Nodding to his reflection, he echoed Gandalf: “It is time.” His public awaited him; his private pain would, for now, have to wait. But tonight, yes, tonight he would carve out time to mourn so that he could then begin to heal. He must, he knew; the future of his kingdom depended on it.