Character: Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli.
Disclaimer: All that is Tolkien's - with a little reflection on the side.
It thundered, it roared, the waters below Rauros eternally boiling and spitting. Liquid splinters mounting the air as drifting summers’ rainbows, or winter sprays cold enough to burn exposed skin. The Anduin threw itself joyfully off the cliffs, nose-diving into a rocky basin worn smooth and deep by its ancient caresses.
Above the Falls, twigs rushed forward; leaves, branches, even rocks when the river angered to flood… but this burden felt different. Not heavy, but weighty with responsibility; not bulky to be wrathfully torn asunder, but sliding smoothly through turbulence…
The river cradled the elven boat, led it safely away.
He had to tell himself the warmth was false when they lifted his friend’s body – yes, he could call him friend now. Once it had been fellowship that kept them together, now it was friendship… and the duties, one to another, in perilous places.
They no longer needed the boats, their paths had diverged, the Three would walk another road, but, he needed to see this warrior to his rest.
The two others were pleased to aid him, but Aragorn had a duty, folding the now barely warm hands, placing the sword; he was after all, his Captain… his King.
It was not within him to be mild, Dwarfish folk frequently lived hard lives; they roistered, they toiled, and they fought… by all that’s… they fought! Hard work was good, roaring fires and plentiful food was good, and a hard hand on a sturdy axe… where in this life was room for mildness?
Gimli remembered young Pippin’s love of mushrooms, Merry’s laughter… both their smiling faces. They might seem mild, good-natured and soft, but they had steel beneath. Look at Frodo, and Sam, they had proved themselves anything but lily-livered.
In defence of the mild-mannered… these he could fight for!
Legolas knew the mannish view of Elvenkind; chilly, haughty people who would turn away when their interests were not served. Dwarves viewed his kin equally askance, indeed, much as Elves regarded the troglodyte, under-mountain dwellers. His father encouraged a demeanour of chilled disdain; as king and father, and Legolas realised, as leader. His father had had aeons of losses in his life. He too had lost comrades and kin.
Legolas steeled himself as they set the craft adrift on the river. His face may mask itself with chilly reserve, but his heart pounded with heat and the desire for revenge.
Hot days mingled with snatched moments to breathe deep, fill water-flasks, as the need to keep running, chasing, took them further from the river. Tributaries, thin rills cutting between heavy turf banks topped with coarse grasses, their greenness a clue to what they hid; cold water, their throats needed it. Cold thoughts, plans… he could barely compose those. First, catch the orc-band, fight the orc-band, rescue the Hobbits… and after, he didn’t know.
The Moon was high, they stopped briefly for food, snatching sleep, or they’d have nothing left to fight with. Aragorn rolled into his cloak, cold, and alone.
Minas Tirith… thronged with cheering people. His bride beside him, freely given by her father, but at what cost? The Evenstar, frozen now in human time.
It was his destiny, what he’d fought for, what he believed in, something everyone had urged upon him… Mithrandir, Lady Galadriel, Lord Elrond, his brothers, mother… all had encouraged him to strive for this moment. No, HE wanted this moment! He’d rarely let his doubts linger; he would be King… and yet…
Was the ranger still within? His love for solitude, trees? His love for…
He smiled, but a tiny part inside remained frozen.