Disclaimer: All characters and places belong to Tolkien. The quotes* in Italic belong to Tolkien. My reverence belongs to Tolkien…

With thanks to my beta openmeadow.


The Grace Given to Me

It is time. I know it just as the birds know when to obey the calling of the wind and fly away from the cold lands to feel the sunrays on their wings again. I know it just as the tree knows when to say farewell to its leaves, watching them flutter to the ground one by one and giving something of itself with every leaf. I know that my time has come.

Sometimes I wondered how I would recognize it. How does a man know that he has reached the point where he can leave with dignity and greatness like the kings of old? How does he know that today is the day to die? It could be tomorrow… and tomorrow again. One more day… not for myself, but for the ones that I love. How can I leave them to grieving? How many times was I near death and only their love returned me to life, showed me the way through the shadows? How can I abandon them, won’t it be selfish of me?

But if I were to stay one day, then why not another? Why not another year? And with every day it will be harder to leave. And every day will leave its mark upon me. Then my loved ones will see me wither and fade like a tree in shadow. Isn’t this a much crueler fate, to see a tree that blossomed and gave fruits and shadow in the heat of the day wither, to watch its branches dry one by one until there will be no use of it? But will I know that I’m beginning to wither? Will I recognize the day before it will be too late? I feared that after so many tests that were laid before me in my life, I would fail in this one final test and deny all that I have achieved.

Now I fear no longer. I know that the day has come. I feel the heart beating in my chest and I know that tomorrow it will beat no more. I will pass the test. It is time. I lift my face and feel the western wind upon it, bringing the fresh scent of the sea and flowers that do not grow in Middle Earth, so sweet and fresh like the morning in the mountains yet subtle like the stars mirrored in the fountain in a warm summer night. I breathe it in deeply. Tomorrow I will breathe no more. Today I stroke the bark of the tree and savor the feeling in my fingertips. I touch the hair of my sleeping wife and feel their silky smoothness upon my skin. Tomorrow my hands will be cold, no more will they feel the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the ancient stone walls. No more will they hold the sword with a powerful grip. No more will they heal the suffering. It is time…

I have lived a full life. I have known hate and love, suffering and healing, war and peace, danger and shelter. I have lost loved ones and overcame many hardships. I have had many names and disguises, fought in fierce battles. I bled and my blood soaked the soil of many edges of Middle Earth. I cried and the earth drank my tears. I have battled with darkness itself, my will pitted against the devouring fire of the lidless eye. I have walked the paths that no man dared to walk, in the shadow of the Dead. I faced death and the end of all that was fair in this world, the end without hope when I gave it all and left none for myself.

And I saw the hope rekindled, like a spark that lights a flame consuming the darkness. I loved and the love was like a light in the darkness, like the Evenstar rising in the skies and showing me the way when I was lost. I planted a tree and the tree blossomed fair and strong, connected with the land that nourished it. I sired children and they became the fruits of my love and the light of my days. I have achieved all I longed for, I saw Middle Earth blossom and prosper, with the evil gone and I was fortunate to help to rebuild it. I have come full circle. Now I’m tired and long to sleep. Lo! We gathered, and we have spent, and now the time of payment draws near. It is time to go.

I kiss my beautiful wife, my Evenstar. She returns my kiss, her lips so sweet and tender like the fruits of Elven gardens in Rivendell that now lie bleak and abandoned. She opens her eyes and I see her love sparkling in their grey depths. She knows. I feel it in her touch when her fingertips stroke my cheek, softer than softest velvet. And yet she holds me strongly in her arms, as if she would want to hold me forever. Oh, if only this moment could last forever! Tears are in her eyes, shimmering like diamonds. I kiss them and feel my own tears run down my cheeks. But I smile. It will last forever! I will take this moment with me beyond the circles of the world, beyond time itself. I will bear my love for you beyond Death, my beloved, my Arwen!

I embrace my son. He is a man now, strong and wise like his forefathers. And at the same time I see the little boy that he was, the joy and sparkle in my days when the burden of kingship grew heavy. I see the days we spent together; playing rangers in the wild, laughing in companionship. He will be a good king, loved by his people. In a flash of vision I see him on the throne, tall and proud and I see a golden-haired woman at his side and children playing at his feet. I see the House of Telcontar flourish, branching through centuries like a strong tree in a fertile soil of Gondor. Be thou blessed, Eldarion, King of the West!

I look from the walls of my city. The winter has passed and the trees are sprouting leaves, the meadows are full of flowers. I look to the east and the shadow is gone, no darkness lingers above the Mountains of Shadow, though the land behind them will bear the scars of evil forever. The land is fertile and the herds numerous. No longer will the wives lose their husbands and mothers their sons to the cruelty of war. These people were born free, no shadow hangs over their hearts, they can dance and sing without fear, they can reforge the swords into scythes and cut the golden corn instead of orcs. This is my kingdom, my people, my life. Truly was I blessed to see its glory renewed under my reign.

Slowly I walk to the White Tree and place a hand upon its trunk. I feel the flow of sap beneath the bark. Like the blood in my veins, its lineage is ancient. I sit beneath the Tree, leaning against its warm bark. I feel its roots, firmly in the soil, connected with the past, with the ancestors. Its trunk is strong and firm, no more the tender sapling I found upon the slopes of Mindolluin. Like the glory of Gondor it will last. I turn my gaze upwards, to its crown. The blossoms are opening their soft petals like shy palms stretching to the sun. And my heart flows through the trunk to the crown and up, up to the sky! This sight I will bear beyond the circles of the world…

Then going to the house of the kings in the silent street, Aragorn laid him down on the long bed that had been prepared for him. There he said farewell to Eldarion, and gave into his hands the winged crown of Gondor and sceptre of Arnor; and then all left him save Arwen, and she stood alone by his bed. And for all her wisdom and lineage she could not forbear to plead with him to stay yet for a while. She was not yet weary of her days, and thus she tasted the bitterness of the mortality that she had taken upon her.

“Lady Undómiel,” said Aragorn, “the hour is indeed hard, yet it was made even in that day when we met under the white birches in the garden of Elrond, where none now walk. And on the hill of Cerin Amroth when we forsook both the Shadow and the Twilight this doom we accepted. Take counsel with yourself, beloved, and ask whether you would indeed have me wait until I wither and fall from my high seat unmanned and witless. Nay, lady, I am the last of the Númenoreans and the latest King of the Eldar Days; and to me has been given not only a span thrice that of Men of Middle-earth, but also the grace to go at my will, and give back the gift. Now, therefore, I will sleep.

“I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world. the uttermost choice is before you: to repent and go to the Havens and bear away into the West the memory of our days together that shall there be evergreen but never more than a memory; or else to abide the Doom of Men.”

“Nay, dear lord,” she said, “that choice is long over. There is now no ship to bear me hence, and I must indeed abide the Doom of Men, whether I will or nill: the loss and the silence. But I say to you, King of the Númenoreans, not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive.”

“So it seems,” he said. “But let us not be overthrown at the final test, who of old renounced the Shadow and the Ring. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! We are not bound forever in the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory, Farewell!”

It is time. I have faced Death before, looking for the lost in the country of shadows, or wandering in it, lost myself when the light of your love, Vanimelda, brought me back to the world. Now I see no shadows. And I know: the shadows are the unfulfilled lives, the things that are yet to do, the voices of children that weren’t sired, the deeds that weren’t accomplished, all the good that could be done but wasn’t. There are no shadows. My life is fulfilled and I leave peacefully, on my own will. Farewell, my love. Farewell!

“Estel, Estel!” she cried, and with that even as he took her hand and kissed it, he fell into sleep. Then a great beauty was revealed in him, so that all who after came there looked on him with wonder; for they saw the grace of his youth, and the valor of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of his age were all blended together. And long there he lay, an image of the splendour of the Kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world.

And then the grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then I see it. White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise…


* J. R. R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings: Appendix A, The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen

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