Written for Nath's birthday. With thanks to RiverOtter for the Beta.
Tick tock tick tock tick tock....
The Dwarf-made clock Gimli had given him a century ago tomorrow quietly but steadily marked the passing seconds. The King finished straightening all that lay upon the desk that had been his since the day he had accepted the Winged Crown. He finally pulled out the book that was his personal coronation gift to his son, a volume of poems Frodo had copied, illustrated, and bound for a friend within the city who'd been an artist. The book had in time come into Aragorn's possession. He set it in the center of the desk and smiled, caressing its cover gently with a single finger. As he did this the clock struck six times, its chime clear and warm, a chime that had marked his time as he'd worked in this, what had been his personal office, for most of his years as King of Gondor and Arnor.
He'd dismissed his scribes and clerks and his personal secretary some time ago, preferring to set the room in order by himself. If it was to be for the final time....
He glanced at the Shire calendar that Frodo had drawn up for him shortly after he was made King of Gondor and Arnor; it indicated that today was the thirtieth of Solmath. Tomorrow.... At last he sighed, then caught himself rubbing at his left shoulder in a way that reminded him again of his beloved friend. He thoughtfully pinched out the candles, turned down the oil lamp, and quitted the room at last, closing the door one final time.
The door to Lord Hirgion’s office was open, and he could hear the faint sputter as the time candle the current Keeper of the Keys always kept burning on the back of his desk flickered, allowing a drop of wax to roll down its side, obscuring one of the blue rings that marked the passage of another hour since the candle was lit.
Aragorn was restless, but he found that now he still wished to be alone. Arwen had closeted herself in the chambers he and she had kept on the second floor of the Royal Wing since Eldarion had married his Loreth and King and Queen had surrendered their former rooms to the two of them; and most of those who had gathered for the King’s birthday tomorrow were meeting with the future King of the combined realm.
He walked through the entrance hall, and heard the soft plop, plink, plop of the waterclock that had been a friendship gift sent by An’Ma’Osiri of Harad shortly after he became Farozi of that land. It was a beautiful piece, and one that Aragorn had treasured even as it fascinated each new generation of pages within the Citadel.
As he approached the front doors, the Guardsmen waiting there saluted him and immediately thrust them open to allow him out into the chill of the evening air. By the light of the flickering torches mounted before the Citadel’s main doors he could see the sundial markings reportedly worked into the pavement between the Citadel and the White Tree by Ondoher; the Sun had set already, so his shadow, should he stand on the proper place marked by a pair of blue stones where the most of the rest of the pavement was white, could not indicate the proper time, but he knew that tomorrow his grandson Valandil, as he so often did, would probably spend a quarter mark or more watching his own shadow move sunwise along the arc.
He approached the White Tree, gave it a bow, then moved forward to set his hand against its trunk. It was tall and remarkably beautiful. He could feel the rhythm of its growth as it sleepily acknowledged him. That rhythm had been slowly increasing over the past few weeks, again waking gradually from the sleep that characterized it throughout much of Minas Anor’s winter, even as mild as that season was here compared to what he’d known growing up in Eriador. There were new buds forming along its branches, buds that were now silver that would open into clusters of silver-green leaves and pure white blossoms. When he’d found it its main stem had been as thin as a finger; now it was a great tree, and the folk of the land did not seem to remember that it had ever been merely a sapling--but, then, of those who lived within the city only he and Arwen had seen it that way.
“Grow and bloom for my son and grandson as you have for me,” he whispered softly. “And bear my respects to the tree that stands on Tol Eressëa and all who stand beneath it. And I thank you for sheltering us and blessing us with your presence.”
The awareness of the Tree grew somehow sharper, and he could swear he heard an echo of a Humph from Gandalf, and that he felt his beloved mentor’s regard.
“Namarië,” he murmured to that faraway presence. “I will be following Frodo and Sam and Pippin and Merry, Boromir and Faramir, Éomer and Halbarad soon enough, and will take them your greetings.”
He could almost feel the old Wizard’s hand on his shoulder, and was comforted.
As he started back toward the Citadel the bells of the city chimed to mark the first hour of the night. He stopped and looked upwards at the face of the building that had been his primary home now for so long. Over the door was a balcony that he’d seldom visited but that was a favorite refuge for his son. Indeed, he saw that Eldarion stood there now, looking southward across the length of the land of Gondor, looking over the lit villages and isolated steadings upon the Pelennor and the faint glow of the Anduin as it wound its way toward the Sea--the Sea that tomorrow would no longer sunder him from those who’d crossed it. Tomorrow the welfare of Gondor and Arnor would be fully Eldarion’s responsibility, and he smiled to know that he’d done his best to assure that his son was up to the task.
My time may be ending, he thought, but here in Middle Earth the time of peace shall continue under his guardianship. He took a great breath, then smiled the more broadly. He left Gondor and Arnor in the best of hands.