The Distant Shore

Tree and Flower Awards, Aragorn, Second Place
2015 Tree and Flower Awards

 Title: The Distant Shore

Author Name: Linda Hoyland


Summary: Aragorn embarks on his final journey.

Rating: PG

Beta: none

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 the 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.

Also inspired by Rachel’s beautiful drawing, which I have long planned to illustrate

Dedicated to Rachel

Arwen realised that she finally understood the purpose of the Gift of Men. She knew now that it was how Men were at last released from the pains and sorrows of Arda. Whence they departed to, though, she could not guess. Was there truly anything to look forward to, the promised Gift from Eru Ilúvatar being more than release from pain and grief, or was death nothing but an eternal sleep from which there was no awakening?

Since Estel had departed, where before there had been bright colours, she saw now only greyness. Their souls had been so closely entwined that now she felt but a shadow of her former self. She had become a living ghost, a mere empty shell. She had wanted to keep on living for her children, but she had seen that her suffering caused them even more pain than their father’s death had. They grieved for him, but their lives continued. Eldarion was determined to rule wisely and well in his father’s stead and her daughters’ lives were filled with everyday joys and sorrows. They could not understand why she could feel nothing but numbness and their eyes were filled with sorrow when they beheld her.

Therefore, she had ignored their protests and come here to Lothlórien, telling them that she desired to grieve alone in the place she had known such joy with Estel, and maybe find at last the healing desired.

Winter had come and the land was deserted. Arwen had not found the peace she craved. Every path she took was filled with memories; memories of her mother and grandmother, and above all memories of Estel.

She found her steps had led her to Cerin Amroth. Until today, she had shunned the place where she once had known such joy. The hill was filled with memories of springtime walks holding Estel’s hand and of their troth plighting. How much pain that choice had cost her, but also how much joy! Could any wife have been happier, or any children fairer than those she had given birth to? There was no joy left now, though. She ardently desired to receive the Gift of Men, but had no idea how it could be given to her.

She was weary beyond measure. She could not recall when she had last slept or eaten. Her restless hands clutched at Aragorn’s worn grey cloak, which she had brought here with her and carried everywhere she went. Climbing the hill took the last reserves of her failing strength. Arwen placed the cloak upon the ground and lay down upon it. She closed her weary eyes.

“Arwen, vanimelda!”

Arwen started at the sound of the beloved familiar voice. “Estel, my beloved!” she cried. She opened her eyes. Much to her  joy and amazement, she saw him kneeling beside her, not as the frail old man she was mourning, but as she had beheld him here long ago, fair as any Elf –lord, clad all in silver and white with the Elendilmir glittering upon his brow. He gently stroked her hair, as had been his custom whenever she was frightened or distressed.

Aragorn held out his hand to her and said, “It is time now. Will you come with me, my beloved?”

“Lead me, and I will follow you, my love,” said Arwen without hesitation. She took his outstretched hand and immediately felt as if she were spinning through a long tunnel. She closed her eyes, but she was not afraid, for was she not with Estel?

The spinning sensation stopped. Arwen heard the cry of the gulls all around her. She opened her eyes and found she was standing on a beach. It was night, but the pink tinged sky on the eastern horizon suggested that dawn would soon break. Arwen felt curiously weightless and when she looked down at her body, she found she was no longer wearing her travel worn garments, but instead, her wedding gown over which was the mantel of silver and blue she had worn on the day when she had first met her beloved.

Aragorn stood beside her. Arwen fell into his arms and their lips met in a tender kiss. She had embraced him so many times before, yet this felt unlike any other embrace she had ever experienced. It were as if their very essences were mingled into one and she was bathed in his love. This was a greater love than she had ever known before, untouched by any kind of need, a love of the purest and highest variety.

“Where are we?” she asked when their lips finally parted. "I was so afraid I would not be able to find you. I feared I would never see you again."

“We are beyond the circles of the world,” said Aragorn. He smiled. “Did I not tell you that there was more than memory there? A boat will come soon to carry us beyond the horizon. Many are waiting there to greet you. There is no pain of parting here. ”

Arwen looked out towards the horizon. The sun was rising and the sky glowed in brilliant shades of yellow and orange. The water gleamed as made of molten gold.

Joy such as she had never before known welled up within Arwen. Night had fled. The sun was rising on her eternal day.

Artwork by Rachel 

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