Even though he saw what was about to happen, Aragorn flinched at the sound of the heavy wooden door being forcefully slammed shut in Eldarion’s wake. He glared darkly and waited until he heard the slightly muffled sound of a similar attack on the door to his son’s chamber before following the wrathful youth. Deciding that knocking would only garner a refusal of admission, Aragorn simply entered uninvited and walked over to stand beside his son who had spared the unwelcome guest a cold glance over his shoulder before turning away to stare out of the window with unseeing eyes.
“Was there a need for you to test the strength of the doors in such a manner?” Aragorn asked lightly, hoping to ease the tension that hung thickly between them. He waited a few moments and was dismayed to receive only silence in reply. “Eldarion, we need to talk.” This time there was a sterner undertone to his words that was tinged with affection and understanding for his son’s pain.
“I have nothing to say to you,” hissed the still irate youth with a disinterested shrug of his shoulders. There was challenge and a trace of disrespect in the tone of voice that grated and did nothing to ease Aragorn’s annoyance with the childish behaviour he was witnessing.
“I know you are disappointed, and I am not required to explain my decisions, but please do me the courtesy of facing me while I do so,” Aragorn demanded with a hint of reprimand in his voice that only served to cause further anger. An anger that quickly became mutual after he placed a hand on his son’s shoulder, meaning to turn Eldarion to face him, only to have it shrugged off as the youth moved away from the touch.
“There is nothing to explain. Sarien is to be a ranger and I am not!”
The sullenly shouted words were emphasised by the pounding of fist on the window sill and the eyes that finally deigned to look at Aragorn were bright with unshed tears.
“You spent most of your life as a ranger, are you not proud to know I wish to follow in your footsteps?”
“Indeed I am, but what you fail to understand is that you are not the son of the ranger, but the son of the King of Men. In a few more years you will come of age and you are expected to behave as my heir.” Eldarion frowned slightly at words that were a portent of doom as far as he was concerned.
“Surely I can be spared the burden of such a responsibility for a while longer? Would I not benefit greatly from living among the rangers, as you once did?” Eldarion asked insistently, his eyes filled with hope and pleading for Aragorn to change his mind, an admittedly unlikely occurrence considering that stubbornness and determination were equally strong traits in the characters of father and son.
“Perhaps,” Aragorn reluctantly admitted, “but the circumstances that sent me into the wilds no longer prevail. It was my heritage and my duty to fight long and hard, at first against myself, and then against Sauron, to take my rightful place as King Elessar, and as my son it is the path to the throne that you must learn to walk, none other.” Aragorn was not surprised that Eldarion resisted the harsh reality, but he had hoped for a more mature acceptance than his son was displaying.
“It is not fair, father!” Eldarion shouted as he threw himself on the bed, rolling onto his back so that he could glare up at a disappointed Aragorn who made no move to appease his son’s ill temper. “Sarien is permitted to choose his own way, yet you deny your own son,” the youth said coldly. Frustration and disappointment was evident in the slump of his shoulders and the harshness of his voice and Aragorn simply shook his head with exasperation and continued speaking.
“It is a very wise decision, in light of your response, and one you should have expected. We both know that Sarien is well suited for the path he has chosen,” chided the King who was nearing the limit of his patience with his son and heir.
“So he will spend his days living the life I crave.” Aragorn’s eyebrows rose in dismay at the petulant remark and decided to try a different approach in his efforts to make Eldarion see reason.
“Are you not proud of your friend? Will you not share in his joy, or do you intend to spoil it with your envy?” Eldarion was taken aback by his father’s misinterpretation and outspokenness. He was certainly envious, but harboured no ill feelings towards his dearest friend and the unpleasant thought of unwittingly hurting Sarien’s feelings with his current attitude tempered his response.
“Of course I am both proud and very happy for Sarien. He deserves to have his skills recognised, but I will miss his presence greatly,” he replied sadly, just now realising the further consequences of the decision. He and Sarien had been practically inseparable since they were children and their bond of friendship was closer than that shared by many who were brothers.
“The role of ruler can be a heavy and unwelcome burden to bear, and even a very lonely one at times. You will become weighed down by responsibilities others do not share and have certain freedoms denied to you, but there are rewards,” he said, smiling inwardly at the curiosity his son was unable to hide.
“What kind of rewards?” Eldarion asked warily.
“The love and respect your people will willingly bestow on a just and benevolent ruler, the chance to travel the lands and meet with many different people and other Kings, to name but a few,” Aragorn replied with a sly grin which was slowly returned in kind as Eldarion took the first step towards acceptance of his fate.
“What are you planning, father?” he asked, correctly sensing mischief and manipulation behind the words. Aragorn smiled at the very elvish mercurial change in emotions that overcame his son, and silently thanked the Valar once again for blessing him with Arwen’s love.
“Your first official duty will be to deliver an important message on my behalf." Aragorn said, deliberately refraining from offering more information in order to pique his son's curiosity.
“A messenger?” Eldarion’s disgust at being given such a mundane task was evident in the dark look he gave his father.
“Indeed. I would have you ride to Ithilien and deliver my greetings and an invitation for a royal visit to Minas Tirith to King Thranduil,” Aragorn said in his most regal voice, his pretence at pomposity dissolving into mirth as he noted the stunned and delighted look on his son’s face.
“I am being *commanded* to visit the elves?” Eldarion teased, knowing his father would understand the jest. It would be the first time in his recall that he would do so with prior permission and, as he thought sadly, without Sarien at his side. Aragorn’s eyes smiled as he nodded and explained the plans further.
“Aye, as strange as it will seem to Legolas, you will arrive as my ambassador, with a guard as befits your status that will include my good Steward and your friend. Faramir is returning to his home, but is so eager to meet Thranduil that he and Sarien will also form part of your escort.” Aragorn said a silent ‘thank you’ to Faramir, for his advice on dealing with Eldarion’s disappointment had proven to be as sound as his advice on matters of state.
“Why am I not surprised at that news? We are all eager to meet Legolas's sire and it will give Sarien and I a few days together before we must say our farewells,” added Eldarion excitedly his face alight with a smile of genuine happiness at the prospect.
“Then I suggest you take your rest, for you are to leave at first light tomorrow,” Aragorn said, moving to place a kiss on his son’s brow. “Sleep well, my son.”
“I am sorry I was angry with you, Father. You do know that I love you, no matter our differences?” Eldarion asked as he allowed Aragorn’s arms to enfold him in an affectionate embrace.
“I love you, too, Eldarion,” replied Aragorn, savouring the moment of closeness that lasted only a few moments before a distressed Arwen entered the chamber.
“I am pleased to see that at least one of our children does not hate you,” she said as she willingly joined in the display of familial affection.
“What has happened now? Which of our daughters have I managed to upset?” asked Aragorn with a sigh of resignation.
“Both!” Arwen declared. “Maerrin says she hates you for sending Sarien away, and Janiel agrees with her grievance against you and is also angry because she thinks you have upset Eldarion.” Aragorn’s confusion was obvious, especially since Eldarion and Arwen seemed amused by some private knowledge and so he was relieved when Eldarion came to his rescue.
“Maerrin has developed a crush on Sarien and had hoped he would escort her to the banquet for King Thranduil and apparently Janiel has decided to support the ‘romance’,” he guessed correctly judging by Arwen’s nod of agreement.
“Unfortunately since they learned that Sarien will be leaving tomorrow, you, my love are now a ‘mean old King’. I think you should go and make your peace with them both,” suggested Arwen with more than a little sympathy.
“I am not Elrond, I can only deal with one troubled child at a time,” Aragorn commented dryly but with much respect for the lore master who had appeared to easily survive the rearing of three children and a foster son. Neither he nor Arwen had found parenting to be a simple task.
“I will speak with Janiel, but Maerrin is yours to deal with father. I am not that brave,” offered Eldarion, knowing his young sister would listen to him above all others.
“Has she stopped crying yet?” Aragorn enquired of Arwen, referring to Maerrin with some trepidation. He loved his daughters dearly, and would protect them from anything, even their own hearts if he could, but he was not comfortable dealing with the often tearful maid his elder daughter was becoming.
“That matters not, just go to her, and be gentle,” replied Arwen, leading a reluctant Aragorn towards the door, closely followed by Eldarion who needed only to walk across the hallway to reach his destination.
“Janiel, are you awake?” Eldarion called softly as he approached the small figure curled up on her bed, arms wrapped around her favourite pillow.
“Hello Eldarion,” she answered as she sat up and reached for a hug from her big brother. “Are you sad because our father is sending Sarien away and because he will not let you be a ranger? Are you angry with him like Maerrin and I am?” she asked with the directness typical of one her age.
“Aye, I am sad because I will miss Sarien, and I am sad I can not be a ranger, but I am not angry with father, nor should you be.” The sternly spoken words were tempered by the kiss bestowed on a soft cheek.
“He made Maerrin cry.”
“He did not mean to, besides of late Maerrin cries over any small thing, even if the toast is burned,” Eldarion snorted with some amusement. Janiel giggled and nodded.
“I know, but she wanted to dance with Sarien. She really likes him you know,” she whispered in confidence.
“Aye, and he really likes her and I have no doubt they will eventually meet on the dance floor on one of the many occasions in the future that mother deems a ball or banquet to be necessary. I have seen the rangers often in attendance either here or in Ithilien,” he said reassuringly.
“Good, then I can stop being angry with father,” Janiel said sleepily.
“A wise decision, little one.” Agreed her brother as he helped her into bed and lovingly tucked the blankets around his sweet sister.
“I am glad you are not going away.”
“So am I,” he whispered in reply, knowing in his heart that it was true.