Strider, Man of Mystery

by boriel

I've always wondered about Strider and this line always caught my imagination (from the FotR - Strider)

'"They will come to you in the wild, in some dark place where there is no help. Do you wish them to find you? They are terrible!"

The hobbits looked at him, and saw with surprise that his face was drawn as if in pain, and his hands clenched the arms of his chair. The room was very quiet and still, and the light seemed to have grown dim. For a while he sat with unseeing eyes as if walking in distant memory or listening to the sounds in the Night far away.'
Ch. 1  Waiting
The tall stranger pulled his dirty cloak more tightly around his shoulders. It was a miserable night. Fine rain like a stinging mist fell
from the darkened sky to settle on him, it's icy fingers finding it's way past the layers of protection he wore. Dampened to the core, he tried to shrug off the chill, and trudged on purposefully.
It had been five months since his last meeting with the wizard at Sarn Ford and by all accounts the one he sought should already be here. But he wasn't. Which was why he was out watching the East Road this drizzly night.
As he walked, he thought back to that day in May that he and Gandalf had last met. Even though there was an urgent purpose to the meeting, the day had been pleasant. As they sat on the bank of the Brandywine River sunning themselves and smoking their pipes, the conversation focused quickly on the Ring........
"My meeting with Frodo went well. Of course it was a shock for him to be told of the Ring's power and history. An heirloom from his uncle, and he finds out it has the power to destroy the entire Middle Earth. In his innocence, he decided that he must save the Shire, even if it would mean leaving it forever. He feels he is beginning a great adventure, likeBilbo," said Gandalf.
"Does he truly understand the danger that is before him?" asked Aragorn.
Gandalf frowned, "how can he? He has known nothing but peace and harmony all his life. The Shire is not a dangerous place."
"Not yet," replied Aragorn. "And only because I, and others like me patrol it's borders unseen." And un-thanked, he thought, but did not say.
He stretched his long legs out in front of him, and took a deep pull on his pipe. A fly buzzed lazily in the afternoon sun. Letting the pipe smoke out with a sigh, he asked, "when is he set to leave?"
Gandalf smiled, his eyes crinkling in amusement. "He plans to leave after his birthday - his fiftieth birthday. Bilbo was fifty when he started his adventure. I think it will do his heart good to have some significant time to leave, and he is not alone. Sam is going with him."
"His gardener? To have a trustworthy companion is to be desired, but is he courageous enough to follow Frodo into danger, I wonder?" 
He sighed again. Drawing in his legs, he stood up and stowed away his finished pipe. As he stood, he listened to the sound of the forest...the faint trickling of water, the buzz of the insects, the occasional song of a bird far off in the trees. It seemed peaceful enough, but he did not feel peace. Instead a dread, like a hand squeezing his heart, filled his being. Turning abruptly, he said, "You are still going with him?"
"Yes, but I must leave in the morning to travel south, to get some news if I can. I've heard something that has made me anxious and needs looking into. I may be back any day, at the very latest I plan to be back for Frodo's farewell party. But if not, I shall meet him on the road."
"Will he have the strength to leave without you, will he go?"
"Hobbits are amazing creatures. They are much tougher than they look, and Frodo is indeed a more amazing one of his kind. He will go. We must trust to fate that things work out."
But things hadn't worked out. Gandalf had been delayed longer than he wished to be, and had sent word to Aragorn. He still remembered the brevity of the message, and the intensity.
"Frodo has started his quest. I cannot meet him  I need to search for further answers. To expect him to travel alone to Rivendell is asking too much. You must meet him on the East Road. Gandalf."

He had burned the note in his fire that night, and plotted out his course for the following day.

Ch. 2 Heritage Revealed
As he trudged on silently, he continued to think back....
That night he had made camp as every night, risking a small fire just long enough to cook his evening meal. For one such as him, there was plenty of food in the wild: berry, root and herb, and his skill as a hunter provided him with the occasional delicacy of meat. As he cooked his meal he had thrown the note from Gandalf into the fire. It burned up quickly, not even causing a rise in the flames. After his meal, he began planning his course of action. Tomorrow he would start for the East Road to meet the Hobbit and his companion. He only hoped that Gandalf had judged Frodo well, and that Frodo would begin his journey as planned.
Sighing, he put out the small fire and folding his arms under his head for a pillow, lay upon his back on the hard soil. As he stared at the stars overhead, his thoughts automatically turned to Imladris and the Evenstar. He closed his eyes and the damp earth beneath him disappeared, and he was transported back to what seemed a lifetime or more ago.
He and the sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir had come riding back to Imladris after yet another successful skirmish against the enemy, and as they rode into the courtyard, Elrond had been there waiting. After a long scrutiny, he had asked Estel to accompany him to the terrace. Aragorn had passed his horse on to Elrohir and followed Elrond, a small thrill of excitement in his heart. Once alone on the terrace, Elrond had spoken first.
"Aragorn, it is time you knew your true heritage. You were very young when your father was killed, and young still when you came to be here, " Elrond said solemnly.
Aragorn started. It was the first time he had been called by his true name since he was twelve, since living here in Imladris. He said nothing, following Elrond through a doorway into the chapel.
"How much do you remember of your past?"
"I do not remember my father, except that he was a great man and died fighting orcs. He was wounded by an arrow and died within the hour.  My mother told me of him when I was young, he was a brave man."
They came to a painting that Aragorn knew well. It showed a warrior on his knees, broken sword in hand, cutting the Ring from the hand of the enemy. It was a depiction of the Battle of the Last Alliance when the free peoples of Middle Earth banded together for one last desperate fight against Sauron.
Elrond turned his back on the painting and faced Aragorn. His eyes were dark and intense.
"You are Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir of Isildur. You are the last in line of the great Kings. See- Isildur cut the Ring from the hand of the enemy with the shards of Narsil, his father's sword. The King's sword. I was there when he did this. The enemy was beaten down that day."
Turning, he walked over to the statue in the middle of the room. It's hands were open to hold a cloth of rich blue and silver. Spread upon the cloth were fragments of the King's sword. The shards of Narsil. Aragorn had seen them almost every day. Well did he know the story of Isildur and his betrayal, his desire to keep the Ring and the cost he paid for it.
"Here is the ring of Barahir," Elrond continued. "Take it. It is a token of our kinship from afar."
Aragorn looked up from the statue to see Elrond holding out a silver ring. He took it and studied it. It was crafted as twin serpents with emerald eyes. They lay coiled, their heads meeting beneath a golden flower. One serpent upheld the flower, the other seemed to devour it.
"Put it on," Elrond commanded.
Aragorn obeyed, sliding the jeweled ring onto the index finger of his right hand. It fit as if it was made for him.
"See here also, the shards of Narsil," Elrond continued, "with these you may yet do great deeds; for I foretell that the span of your life shall be greater than the measure of Men, unless evil befalls you or you fail and long. The sceptre of Annuminas I withhold, for you have yet to earn it." 
Aragorn was silent. He needed time to make sense of all this. He? Heir to Isildur? Heir to the throne?