1. The Tides of the World
Now as the sun went down Aragorn and Eomer and Imrahil drew near the City with their captains and knights; and when they came before the Gate Aragorn said:
'Behold the Sun setting in a great fire! It is a sign of the end and fall of many things, and a change in the tides of the world. Return of the King, Ch. 8: The Houses of Healing
Aragorn nearly staggered with weariness as he left Minas Tirith, worn from the long night and all that had come before it. But his heart soared. He had delivered the City that his sires helped to build, the City he had come to love when he lived in it so long ago. He had kept his pledge to Boromir.
He had saved lives by his own hand, his own will. He had fought bladeless battles throughout the long night, in the candle-lit chambers of the Houses of Healing and later, the rooms in the homes of the City, where he had drawn men and women out of the Shadow's foul grip. Each healing had taken a little more of his strength and had given him back a little more hope.
Elrohir and Elladan flanked Aragorn now, casting worried glances towards him. Their concern warmed his heart, but he was well enough, and would walk out of the City on his own legs, not supported or carried.
At last they reached his own tent. Aragorn fumbled with the lacings on his tunic; while the Peredhil helpfully removed his boots. A brazier had been lit, a bottle of wine set out with cheese and a few small winter apples on the table. He took a few bites of an apple, but could not finish it, or take more than a few sips of the wine that he suddenly noticed was a prize vintage from the cellars of Imladris.
Stripped down to breeches and stockings, Aragorn collapsed on the camp bed. Someone pulled the furs over him - Elrohir. His foster-brothers' hands touched his face in blessing. Then the twins withdrew.
Aragorn's thoughts raced almost too fast for him to fully heed them. The Kings, dead - Angmar's cursed lord; the valorous Théoden; and the King of the Dead who had come at Aragorn's summoning.
Denethor, slain by his own hand. Hirluin, Grimbold, countless others of hill and plain and coast.
Halbarad! His friend and kinsman had not gone alone, with so many valiant souls to bear him company beyond the Circles of the World, and the Witch-King's destruction to mark the terrible glory of the day.
Yet there were many who lived because Aragorn and the Grey Company had come down from the north, bringing Halbarad to the death he had foreseen: Faramir, the steadfast Captain and Steward; bitter, brave Éowyn; Merry, whose resilient reclamation of life amazed him; and then the many men of Gondor and even Rohan who had awakened from the Black Breath at Aragorn's call…The White City itself, all its people saved from slaughter, from young Bergil to Húrin and old Ioreth, because of the journey that had claimed Halbarad's life. Weregild for Halbarad?
Nay, even ten thousand lives could not replace his kinsman! But the survival of those who lived today, and the deaths of their foes, would signal the Enemy who had caused Halbarad's death that His victory was not certain after all.
Aragorn grasped the hilt of Andúril, sheathed at his side. Your time will come, Sauron, sooner than you think.
Through the flaps of the tent, Aragorn glimpsed the paling of the sky. The sun would soon come forth, undimmed by Sauron's spite. So much had happened between Anar's last rising and the approaching dawn. It had been a day of reckoning.
Day of death, day of life renewed. Day of despair. Day of hope.
Day of darkness.
Day of destiny.
The last day. The end of Gondor as it was; the day that Minas Tirith did not fall.
And now, a new day.