Characters: Young Aragorn and Young Halbarad
Source: Pre-Ring War
Disclaimer: A little bit that Tolkien left out – maybe! The characters and the rest of Middle-earth are all his.
“Aragorn…? Aragorn… Aragorn!”
Finally the voice penetrated, Aragorn jumped, his hand slipped on the whetstone and he cut his finger. Without thought, he loosed a string of curses, familiar to elvish grooms and foot-soldiers, but frowned upon by his father…. My Adar… he bit his lip.
“Don’t mind me,” said a cheerful voice, “I’m keen to acquaint myself with curses in every language… At least I assume that’s what they were?”
Aragorn sucked his finger, nodding. Grinning, the young ranger who’d called his name strode over to some weeds, yanking a few free.
“Try these; they call it King’s Foil.”
Aragorn eyed the weed before taking it. He pulped the leaves, wrapping the make-do poultice around his finger tightly. He nodded his thanks to the ranger, who, by his cloak was a newcomer like him.
“We call it athelas,” he mumbled.
“I’m Halbarad,” the young ranger said, “we’ll be going on patrol together.”
“Sorry - they said you were called Aragorn, but you didn’t answer…”
Aragorn shrugged, “I am… but, my brothers always called me… something else.”
“Yeah… brothers!” Halbarad nodded understandingly.
It dawned on Aragorn that Halbarad didn’t know who he was… which felt somehow strangely comforting.
They saddled up later, sturdy ponies rather than the fleet horses of the Elves, Aragorn noted to himself. Halbarad instantly bonded with his mount via apples purloined from the cook-house. Watching the young man fuss the horse’s ears, Aragorn could see how the little sweetener made a difference.
Halbarad saw him watching, fumbled in his pocket and tossed another apple to Aragorn.
“He’ll be friends for life for the sake of that.”
He grinned, and Aragorn grinned back, and for the first time since his brothers had ridden away, he felt some lightness in his fea… light as a feather.
The patrol was small; two veterans who knew the paths like the backs of their craggy hands, two of middle service, plus Aragorn and Halbarad. He’d some weeks over Aragorn with the Rangers, but Aragorn had ridden out with his brother’s company for well over a year. All were blooded in skirmishes, though fighting marauders was not the aim; this was about learning the terrain and navigating the wilds.
They halted before sunset, and were sent off to forage. Halbarad returned, disappointed having only shot one wood-pigeon. Aragorn came back holding bundled leaves… revealing rainbow trout! They’d feast for supper!
The older men had chosen a snug site among sheltering rocks, in an area known to be comparatively secure. Hence they felt safe to build a substantial fire and griddle the fish on a cast iron pan, rather than hastily securing them on sticks to roast before being hastily consumed half-raw.
Sunset slipped into night, the sky turning to velvet blackness, sparked with stars and rising sparks from the campfire.
“Go on then, Hal, give us a song,” urged a veteran.
“But not too loud,” cautioned another.
Halbarad ducked his head, abashed, but softly sang a melody Aragorn already knew
It was a song of the Elves, but in the Common Tongue… abruptly Aragorn’s eyes watered; his vision swam… back to the Hall of Elrond, the musicians before the great hearth singing ancient lays… He shook his head, the scene faded, the shadowed walls of the Last Homely House became shadows of rocks and tall pines.
Later, the two took their turn to watch.
“I saw your face shadow…” Halbarad halted his question uncertainly.
“It wasn’t you,” Aragorn assured him. “I like the song… it just reminds me…”
Halbarad squeezed his shoulder, “If ever you need to talk… I’m here.”