Aragorn ponders in the Hornburg

by Vison

The night is black and black too are my thoughts. It is come to this: Must I draw to myself the very notice I most wish to avoid? There it sits, the Palantir, and it seems to beat under the cloth like a heart pulsing, throbbing with life of its own. The Hobbit Peregrine was foolish, but he could not have understood what he was doing! I am not so fortunate, I must, if I will, set my head on the block and lift my hair to bare the nape to the headsman’s axe........

This is a most strange mischance, if mischance it be. Yet it may be that it can be turned to our advantage, if I can summon up the courage to look into that globe of fire. Courage! Set me on my feet, sword in hand, and I fear nothing. Courage of the body is easily summoned. But if I would be king, I must summon courage of a different kind.

Gandalf knew. Wisest of advisors, he did as he always does: he left it to me......I call to mind that when I was a lad, so long ago, Elrond did thus. Estel, Elrond would say, I have taught you this, I have taught you that. You are now the balance, Estel, and must weigh your deeds for yourself.

So here is the balance before me. On the one side, . Keep the Stone covered, change nothing, add nothing to the scale, plough ahead as I have done, trust to strength of arms, to my bodily courage and the courage of those others who sleep below. I trust in their courage. Yet there are two others, do they plough ahead? Will their courage and will be enough, unaided?

On the other, bare the Stone and myself. Anduril lies sheathed here, at my hand. Unsheath the sword, uncover the Stone, show my face—and—then? And then. It would at least draw the Eye hither, would at least distract that vile mind.

I am afraid. If strength I have, then this is it in part: I have the courage to tell myself that I am afraid. But what is it that I fear? He cannot reach out through the Stone and lay hands upon me. He cannot cause an arrow to fly through the Stone and fell me where I stand. But can he turn my mind? Can he poison my heart, sap my strength, weaken my will?

I am wearing a path into the floor. I have walked a league, while I ponder this matter! How many leagues have I walked in my years? Longshanks, Sam said. Strider I am called. Endurance I posses. The sinews of my long-fathers, hands bred to grasp the hilts of a sword. I fear that is all I am, now, that my hands will never unclench, my arms will never again go unbraced. In Lorien, I could put aside care, and dream of my love. Arwen! I see you there, in my mind’s eye, glimmering in the are become as remote as Luthien, my love, a dream, no more. Yet, what I do this night will either bring you to me in life, or put you away forever into memory.

If my only care was myself and my heart, this would be simpler. But I have set my feet on the path to kingship, and have taken on the burden of all those other lives. They look to me! It is my part to hide my doubts and fears, to show ever a stern face and a straight back. My hand must not tremble as it grasps the cup at breakfast, as I wield the razor to shave my face—mayhap I will summon the valet before I go forth—that wound at least I can spare myself! Well, well, I am not worn down yet, if I can laugh.......

Valiant men, doughty men, but they must be led, and they must be led by a will of iron, by a heart that never falters. When have I ever turned aside onto a path of ease? When have I ever refused my duty? Never. Never. But now—now it comes to this hardest thing—what is my path? What is my duty? It is not fear that hinders me, but doubt!

Frodo said, Then it is yours! The Ring is yours.

Yet I could turn away from the Ring with scarcely a pang, I had no doubt then of my path, I had no doubt then of my duty. The hard path, the hard duty. The Ring was a weapon I could not and would not use. I could not even bear the Ring, but have had to see it borne by one who had no part in its long history of betrayals. An innocent one. I deem that only an innocent one could bear such a burden...... He was afraid, I know, poor Frodo, but he stood forth and said, in a voice that did not tremble: I will take the ring, though I do not know the way.......And he and Sam are on that terrible path, as I writhe and twist in doubt and fear here, safe in a stone tower surrounded by armies that I myself can command!

But the Stone. The Stone is also a weapon, and it is mine by right! There it sits, a thing not Evil in itself, as the Ring is Evil. The Stone is a tool whereby I might pry open the oyster that is the Present. Whereby I might see the movements of men and events, the shifts and changes of armies and winds and tides. If I am strong enough. If I can bend this Thing to my will. Surely it has come to me, when knowledge is the thing I need most? A weapon is only a weapon if it is used, otherwise it remains a useless heirloom, such as a coward would boast upon; a sword rusting while sinews slacken, the hand too soft to wield it.

I must bare my breast to the spear, my neck to the axe, and trust that my Right is armor enough. This is the test that makes the King. So. Already the Eastern sky begins to pale, the long night draws to an end. My body is weary, but my mind and heart are now set. Fear and doubt I have conquered.

I am the heir of Isuldur, I am the owner of this Stone. How heavy Anduril is become, freighted with my future!...........See, my face pale and stern in the glass.....the shadows flicker......the air between me and the Stone crackles with is his onset....................