Mile after endless mile, to what end? To what senseless slaughter will we next commit ourselves? How many more sons shall fall, before we lose the right to our own? Why do men turn their heads away and pretend they only see the good?
They had won the day, but they could not rejoice. No matter what great victory was gained they always lost too many for the sacrifices to seem worthwhile. They were too few for their losses.
That thought soured Aragorn’s mouth and he shut his eyes, as his hand gripped tight onto the cold, stiff, digits of the lifeless man who lay, on the on the ground next to him, amongst the bodies of the other, countless, dead.
Inside the city he knew the Rohirrim would be standing vigil around Théoden, and cursed that he could not reveal himself to all as the new King of Gondor, cursed that Halbarad would lie on the cold ground, amongst the common soldiers, rather than in a hall, bedecked with finery, as his weeping family began to mourn. But then the more he thought, the more foolish he realised he was being; Halbarad was a Dunedin Ranger and proud of it, he had lived his whole life in the wilds of Eregion, and cared as much for pomp and fine clothes as he did for a month without his pipe, no matter who he was related to.
Still, it did not lessen the feelings of anger and guilt in Aragorn’s heart. He knew it was because of him that Halbarad had led the others down, with the Son’s of Elrond, because Halbarad had always believed that Aragorn could become the magnificent king of men he was born to be, no matter how immense the enemy that had to be defeated first.
Suddenly, Aragorn felt a presence beside him, and opened his eyes to see the twin son’s of Elrond standing there. Stiffly, he rose from his crouched position to greet them. But no word were spoken, they simply placed an arm each around his shoulders and stood with him, gazing down at Halbarad’s peaceful face. Elladan and Elrohir had often ridden out with the Rangers, hunting Orcs, and other such monsters of the Enemy, and they had known Halbarad, as Aragon’s lieutenant, almost as an extension of Aragorn himself.
‘Well’, Elrohir had joked once ‘you certainly can’t tell the difference by smelling them, and until we scrape off all the mud, there’s no knowing which one’s which!’ at which point they’d shoved the helpless Halbarad into the river, mistaking him for Aragorn, and it was only when Halbarad had scrambled back to the bank, muttering darkly that ‘they should know better at their age, especially with their father being who he is’ that they realised their error.
So the three stood there, two immortals and a long-lost king, silhouetted against the fading sun, gazing down upon the bloodied dead.