Title: The Distant Shore
Author Name: Linda Hoyland
Summary: Aragorn embarks on his final journey.
Author's Notes: WARNING– Character death
Aragorn closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He tried not to feel afraid now that the time had come for him to depart. He had never lived like a coward and was determined not to die like one.
Beside him, Arwen’s anguished weeping tore at his heart. It would be so easy to weaken his resolve and choose to live out what few days or weeks remained to him at her side. He was certain, though; she would weep even more bitterly if she were forced to witness him growing more infirm with each day that passed. He wanted her and his children to remember him as he was now; his mind still undimmed despite his rapidly declining body.
He took a deep breath and said inwardly. “Eru, Ilúvatar, I thank you for the Gift of my life. I now freely and willingly return it into your keeping.”
He felt a tugging sensation within him, not painful but very strange. Suddenly, he felt as if he were being pulled through a tunnel at great speed. The pain in his aging body melted away. He felt simply as if he were casting aside a broken, empty shell. Aragorn felt as light as air. He wanted to reassure Arwen and to tell her that all was well, but her weeping now sounded faint and far away.
Suddenly, he could hear the cry of the gulls and hear a distant lapping of waves.
He opened his eyes and found he was standing on the seashore, if ‘standing’ was quite the right word, as his body now had no weight or substance. He looked down at himself and saw that he still seemed to have a bodily form. He appeared as he had done in his prime. He was no longer stooped, but stood tall and straight. He was dressed simply in a plain, dark green tunic and breeches. He felt well content at this, but wondered what he was supposed to do next. This was a beautiful place, but he felt very alone here.
As if in answer to his thought. a small boat appeared on the horizon and swiftly glided to the shore, seemingly driven by the breeze. Three figures leapt ashore and ran towards him. Aragorn’s spirits soared when he recognised his mother, Halbarad and Faramir. Of all the folk, he had loved and lost over the years, these three he missed the most. They hastened to embrace him, though it was with their souls rather than their arms. He felt bathed in love in its purest essence.
“Welcome home, my son,” said Gilraen. “Long have I desired to tell you how proud you have made me. You were indeed the hope of your people and more. Your father is so proud of you to. He is waiting to greet you on the far shore.”
Aragorn regarded her joyfully. His heart had always ached that she had never seen him become King and he had been unable to heap the honours upon her that she richly deserved. His last parting with her when she was so aged and careworn had almost broken his heart. Now, she appeared as he remembered her from his boyhood, young and fair.
Halbarad grinned at him. He too appeared as when they first met, a hale young man.
“It saddened my heart greatly that you too never saw me crowned,” said Aragorn. “You gave your life for me.”
“It was my doom,” said Halbarad. “Never did I regret offering my life for my King.”
Aragorn turned then to Faramir, who also appeared as a young man in his prime. “I have missed you greatly, old friend,” he said. “Long life is a mixed blessing when you outlive so many who are dear to you.”
“All your loved ones who went before await you,” said Faramir. “Éomer and Éowyn, my grandsire, the Hobbits and many of your Rangers. You will see them all again soon. We should not tarry here too long as they are eagerly waiting for you. It is time for you to sail away with us.” He beckoned towards the boat.
Aragorn took a step towards it then hesitated. “What of Arwen? I fear she will not long endure our separation.”
“She must breathe the air of Arda a little longer,” said Faramir. “You shall be able to return here to welcome her when her time has come. It will not seem long. Seasons passe differently in this realm.”
“You always spoke the truth to me, my friend,” said Aragorn. “I will come.” He allowed his companions to help him into the boat.
A glorious golden light appeared on the horizon as soon as he took his place in the stern. As soon as they were all seated, a strong yet gentle breeze arose and drew the small craft across the furthest horizon and into the light beyond. Aragorn had embarked on his last and greatest adventure.