Summary: Aragorn escapes his future by burying himself in the mystery of a lost stranger.
Disclaimer: Neither Angel: the series or Lord of the Rings belongs to me. They are owned solely by their respectable owners.
Author’s Notes: Kind of random, but worth reading.
As I sit in this dreary tavern, watching the regulars knock back beer after beer, studying their movements with well practised eyes, I see you enter. You scan the room, searching for a dark corner to lurk in until night falls, which is when you will slip from your seat and disappear into the night. But first you will drink slowly, a cup of wine, and remember. I know that you are recalling something you cherish, because your eyes glaze over and you sink into yourself until you are but a still corpse, lost in your thoughts. I wonder what you are remembering.
I watch you every night you come here, and I know that you know. Why you do not care that I am always studying you, I do not know. You have never looked my way, nor acknowledged my presence, but you know I am here.
Why you are here is a mystery that irks me greatly.
The first time you came here, barely a month past, I knew you were a stranger. Your clothing was different, for one thing. The black material that clung to your body like a second skin, and the black animal skin that sways when you walk is not familiar to me. The animal from which the skin was taken has not crossed my path in all my travels, and I was wary.
So I came back here the next night, and again you strode in, sat down, drank, and then left when night fell. The next night you did the same, and the next, until it became a ritual to return here each night and wait for you. I will wait for the unnoticed entrance, then the quick exchange of money for wine, and the silent merging with the shadows of the dark corners in which you sit. I will watch as your eyes glaze over, and you return to the memories you treasure. Memories of a lifetime long gone, a lifetime you shall hold in your heart until your last breath.
I know you have seen many lifetimes. The haunted look in your eyes speaks of centuries of pain, decades of love, and a lifetime of trails. It falls upon the brown depths like a cloak, pulling on your soul like a heavy burden that never lets go, that never gives you a chance to breathe. I have seen this look in many eyes before, for I have grown into a man under the guidance of people who have seen centuries. You, however, are not like them. Your beauty does not come from grace and majesty, but from your darkness; the ghostly pale skin and endless eyes. I have seen eyes with centuries. Yours speak of eternity.
I want to know who you are. I want to know of your journeys, of your experiences, but I understand that there is not enough time to tell it all. It would not be possible to tell me all of what you have seen, what you have felt and heard, before I leave this place and move on to my time of rest. It is because of this that I follow you each night when you leave. I do not know whether you know this, but I doubt if I could remain unbeknownst to you for so long. Surely you have heard my footsteps echoing yours? If you have then you give me no sign of caring. So I follow you again. And I watch.
You stand up, leaving an empty cup on the wooden table, and leave. You stand still for a moment, eyes closed, and breathe in the night air before moving on. You do not walk down the road, but stay hidden in the shadows of the backstreets, careful to become unnoticed when people pass. No one sees you, and no one knows you exist. You are naught but a dark wraith, searching the city for something you need. You search vigilantly, careful not to leave even a stone unturned.
I am a stone’s throw away from where you stand when a woman’s scream rents the silence. I nearly forget you in my attempt to find her. You steal through the night without a sound, and the air barely parts to let you through. There is no obvious movement on your part; one moment you are here, and the next you are there. Your arm flashes out and grasps the brute’s neck. He tries to turn on you but you strike him down and he is unconscious on the cold paving. The woman clutches at her torn dress and thanks you over and over again with tears rolling down her cheeks, but you simply nod and move away.
You are not a man, yet your actions speak of deeds a mere man would not have the courage to do. You are more than a man, yet you do not think this. You do these heroic deeds because you need to. A redemptive streak that has burned itself into you. You are haunted. You are truly a survivor, a hero lost in the threads of time and place. This is not your place, yet you aid those in need. This is not your place, yet the lingering debts of your old life still cling to you.
Where are you from?
What is your purpose?
Who are you?
I want to know. I need to know. Which is why I am approaching you now, as you stand before the open portal. You stand there, waiting for me to appear from the shadows of the corner stall, and lift your head when I do so. We stand opposite each other, similar in height and shape, similar in more ways that you could ever know. You are struggling to set yourself free; I am struggling to accept the chains that come with my blood. We struggle, you and I, yet the suffocating burden never lessens.
“Where are you from?” I ask you.
The corner of you lip curls into what could have been a smile, but it does not reach your eyes.
“Not here,” you say, and I nod. An indirect answer should not be questioned. You do not trust me, and I do not trust you. Why should you tell me these things? But I persist.
“What is you purpose?”
This time you do smile, and although the amusement does not reflect in your eyes, there is a twinkle there.
“Not this,” you reply.
I am intrigued by you.
“Who are you?”
There is a pause, and you finally rest your gaze into mine. The glaze is lifted, and I am gasping from what I see. You have seen things people fear. You have heard things that could chill a grown man’s blood. You have felt things that would kill people from the sheer intensity. You are nothing like you appear. Your appearance is deceiving, a paradox. You are dark, and you are filled with light. You are a demon, and you are a man. You are so young, and you are so old. You are vengeful, and you are forgiving. You are sorry, and you are…lost?
You are a lost soul, searching for the way home. I realize now, that the pain reflected in your eyes is the effect of losing so much. I do not know why this portal leads to your home, and I do not know if you will find it on the other side. But I can not let you go until I know you, until I know who you are. It consumes me during the day, when I must wait till the sun sets to see you again. You are a stranger, a foreigner not familiar in my world.
I wish I could help you find it again. I wish I could search with you, so that I could share the moment of coming home with you. But I can not do that. I must let you find it alone, so that when you return home you are stronger. You will not let me even if I insist. You would never let another too close- your walls are tall and thick, impenetrable. You have done so before, and it ended in pain. It has always ended in pain for you.
“Who are you?” I ask again, my voice almost trembling from desperation.
You must tell me you name. You must tell me who you are, so that I know you are real.
When you return to whence you came, you shall be home. You will see those you thought lost, and you will smile. You will continue fighting, and you will continue to live. The heaviness in your mind and heart will always be a lingering presence, and I pray to the Valar that you are given the freedom you crave. I want to believe that you will be, but I will never know for certain.
Once you leave, this brief hiatus will be over. The real world will come crashing down on me, and I will be forced to face my future. While you were here I could concentrate on your hardships, leaving mine to simmer beneath the surface of my skin. But when you leave, I will have closure, and I must move on. I must know your name.
You speak, and for the first time since I saw you, you seem vulnerable and relaxed.
“Who I am doesn’t matter to you,” you say. “Wake yourself up and live while you still can. You are stronger than this state of denial. Accept it, embrace it, and live it.”
I listen to your words, and somehow they manage to seep through my skin and grasp the King within me. Evil is coming. I have already sensed it, and I know it is but a matter of time before the darkness of Mordor will begin to poison the earth. I straighten my back, lift my head and gaze into your eyes. I need to accept who I am. I need to embrace who I was born to be. I will live the life written for me. I will do this and more, but there is one thing I need to know before I can do this.
“Who are you?” I ask, one last time.
You step towards the swirl of blues and purples of the portal, and throw a glance over your shoulder.
“Let’s just say…I’m a friend.”
“Friends know what to call each other,” I reply, but I feel it is pointless.
“I know your name, Aragorn, like you know mine.”
You are gone, Angel, and I stand alone in the cold night, smiling.
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