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4
IV. The Fire of Hope (Aragorn)




The young Ranger sits stiffly against a tall oak atop a hillock, watching the crossroads of the Greenway, as the Bree-men called it, and the East Road, below him. Not far beyond, the little town of Bree sits unwary beneath the Bree-hill’s great brow, flanked by Combe, Chetwood, and Archet. The Ranger stretches his long legs to avoid cramp, thinking briefly of the generations before him who have secretly guarded these border towns. What did the townspeople know, safe in their snug and cozy houses, of the heartless evil lurking only a day’s march away? Nothing; so they felt free to mock at any Ranger who came in occasionally from the cold to warm hands and travel-weary feet at the Prancing Pony.

The Ranger shivers, then draws his green wool cloak close about him to ward off at least some of the twilight chill. He can see the Prancing Pony from his cold berth, and imagines the stolid innkeep, Bartho Butterbur, stoking the fire in the inn’s huge hearth. He can glimpse the shape of other dwellings in the village; and imagines the men and hobbits sitting down to tables, the goodwives bustling to finish their preparation of dinner, children playing, the cheerful chatter of happy families.

Someday, he tells himself. Someday, I will have a seat grander than the Chieftain’s Chair, and more than a broken sword to offer her. Someday, my people will come out of the hidden places and walk in the sun, and the North and South will be one again. I shall rebuild Annúminas for her, or make a new home, where there will be fire in the hearth, and merriment, and song, and she will come to me and be my bride.

The Ranger sighs softly, remembering the fairest lady he had ever, and would ever, know: the musical voice, the heart-piercing glory of her eyes, the graceful figure that kindled desire, and the lovely face with those red, ripe lips. She had looked upon him as if he were a clever child when he spoke his admiration. Ah, but he was patient. He would take no other woman to wife or to bed. He would travel far, do great deeds, slay thousands of orcs and somehow find a way to cast down the Enemy’s dark tower in distant Mordor itself, if that was what it took to win Arwen Undómiel.

She will be mine, he vows, keeping his eyes upon the empty road and the flickering lights of the town. We will have six, nay, seven, children! We shall name our firstborn son Eldarion, for her people and he who stands as father to us both.

The heavy dampness of the March evening seems a little less close now, as he fondly imagines taking the Evenstar in his arms, and holding a small black-haired, grey-eyed boy on his lap, all safe and well by a crackling fire. As the Star of Hope gleams in the darkening sky, the Ranger cannot help but smile.

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