Many Guises and Many Names
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Rangers of the North: 25. A Farewell Gift
Aragorn looked up from the papers he was sorting to
see the Steward standing in the doorway of his little
workroom. "You shouldn't call me that, Ecthelion."
The old Man lifted questioning eyebrows. "Why not,
my Lord, when there is none but you and I to hear?"
and came in, closing the door behind him. An
unecessary precaution as the guardroom beyond was
quite empty at this hour of the night.
"Because I am not your Lord." Aragorn replied.
"Rather it is I who have sworn an oath to you."
Ecthelion shook his head "To Gondor rather. I know
you have chosen not to claim our allegiance but that
doesn't change the blood in your veins. You are still
my superior in rank, my Lord, descended from a far
older and higher lineage than I can claim."
"You Gondorim are overconcerned with blood and
rank." Aragorn said disapprovingly. Sighed: "At least
there is no need for such ceremony. Sit down
The old Man smiled as he settled himself on a bench
against the wall. "My aged bones thank you - my Lord!"
his smile broadened at his King's exasperated glare
and he continued: "If we are overconscious of the
claims of blood it is because so little of the High
Numenorean strain survives among us. My House and
Adrahil's are the most ancient left in Gondor and they
are no older than the realm itself.
"We lost many of our noblest to the kinstrife or
the Plague and the highest in the land, twenty Great
Houses who could trace their lines back to Numenor and
even to Beleriand, departed Gondor when Meneldur
denied his allegiance to the High King."
"So you remember that." Aragorn said softly.
"It is not written in the common histories but our
Loremasters remember." Ecthelion grimaced. "We have
been taught to call it treachery, but the true
treachery was Meneldur's. Gondor has been tainted from
her very begining - and we have paid and are still
paying a bitter price for it." looked levelly at the
King. "Cemendur believes only return to our rightful
allegiance can save Gondor from her long decline - and
I agree with him."
Aragorn was shaking his head. "No, Ecthelion, in
this I am right. The time for Kings is passed."
"Say rather that it has not yet come." countered
the Steward. "I agree with you, my King, to declare
yourself now would bring disaster upon us all and an
end to all hope." but then his head lifted, eyes
gleaming with a strange light, and his voice rang with
prophecy. "Your time is not passed but yet to come,
King Elessar. You will return to Gondor in our darkest
and most desperate hour and you will save us from the
Shadow in the East and the shadow on our hearts."
Then his eyes closed and his body sagged and
Aragorn was around the writing table in an instant to
catch him by the shoulders and keep him from tumbling
to the floor. "Ecthelion!"
Blue veined lids blinked open. "Strange," the old
Man whispered huskily, "I have not had a forseeing in
many years, and never so strongly."
Aragorn leaned him carefully back against the wall
and poured a tumbler of strong spirits from a bottle
atop a standing cupboard. "Drink this, slowly."
watched with concern as Ecthelion carefully sipped the
He drained the tumbler and gave his King a
challenging look. "Well, my Lord, what do you make of
Aragorn sighed, almost as if defeated. "When I was
a child I had a dream of coming at the head of an army
to the rescue of a white city of seven circles." he
admitted, shook his head helplessly. "But how that
vision or yours could come to pass I cannot see. But I
promise you, Ecthelion, if Gondor ever does stand in
need of my aid she will have it."
"Thank you, my Lord." the Steward said, satisfied.
Looked at the parchments heaped on the writing table:
"A late hour for paperwork."
"I am putting the business of the Guard in order
for my successor."
"And who am I to put in your place?" Ecthelion
It was a rhetorical question but Aragorn had an
The Steward blinked in surprise. "My son?"
The King sat down on a corner of the table, faced
him seriously. "There is nothing wrong with Denethor's
grasp of strategy and logistics, and if he does not
inspire love at least he commands respect and
obedience. There is less need now for a battle leader
at the head of the Citadel Guard, and should Denethor
ever have need of such he will have my young nephews
to call upon."
That made Ecthelion blink again. "You mean to leave
them here? And what makes you think Denethor will work
any better with them than with you?"
"Of course Ellenion and Ereinion will stay in Minas
Tirith - as long as Hurin remains with us in the
North. Surely, Ecthelion, you realize that is why they
"I require no hostages from you, my King." the
Steward told him quietly.
Aragorn smiled wryly. "Your daughter may disagree.
But I have another reason for desiring my nephews to
stay. Though an open alliance is impossible I would
not close the door you and I have opened. We can at
least exchange news of our Enemy - and our friends."
Ecthelion nodded. "Yes, I would welcome that. But
why should my son prove any friendlier to your kinsmen
than to you, my Lord?"
"Because they will not threaten him as I do, being
younger and subordinate to him." Aragorn said gently.
"Nor will they win your favor as I have done."
The old Man bowed his head. "I have been a fool."
he said quietly. "I never realized how bitter was his
jealousy - nor how I fed it unknowingly."
"Give him my place, Ecthelion," the King urged
softly, "confide in him as you have confided in me,
let him see the love and trust you have for him."
"I will." the Steward promised, himself as well as
Aragorn. "But before you leave us, my King and
Captain, I would ask of you one last service - for
"Anything." Aragorn said sincerely.
Ecthelion smiled. "Destroy the fleet of Umbar."
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