“Parry!” I hollered and jumped forward, Andruil gleaming in the morning sun.
Eldarion jumped back swiftly, my blade just barely missing his shoulder. “I wasn’t ready!” he cried in dismay.
I couldn’t help it. I threw back my head and laughed. “My child. I don’t think your enemies are going to care whether or not you’re ready for them!” I paused to catch my breath. “In fact, I’m sure they’re hoping you WON’T be!”
Eldarion shook his head slowly, a disturbed look clouding his features. “I don’t want to fight at all, father,” he said softly, not looking at me. “Why can’t there just be peace?”
Something in his voice stirred compassion in me and I stepped forward slipping an arm around his shoulders. He leaned against me seemingly suddenly weary. “I wish I had an answer for you Eldarion,” I replied very gently. “It seems that no matter what we do, someone is never happy. Never satisfied. They always want more. One more condition. One more suggestion. One more request they think is necessary. And lately, it seems that all anyone wants is happiness for themselves. The Southrons… they want what’s theirs. The Men of Harad. Never have I had trouble from them, but now they grow restless and say they need more land for their livestock. Even Prince Faramir has dissention in Ithilien! His people fear that, because he is befriending the Southrons, they’re in danger. None of these people seems to see the larger picture. The greater good. It seems everyone wants a solution and they want it NOW.”
“They’re tired, father. Even with Sauron overthrown… they’re tired. There’s been a lot of plundering and pillaging. People made to be slaves. Forced from their homes. Loosing all that they had. You can’t blame them for wanting change.”
“And I don’t. And I vowed that, as King, I WOULD make change. But I am just ONE MAN Eldarion! And some of these problems have gone on ere I was born! I am not Gandalf. I can’t conjure up a spell and make everything right.” I sighed heavily, not sure of the words. “One of the easiest ways to make peace is to make people accept and change. One of the most difficult things to do is make people accept and change. Do you see my dilemma?!”
My son looked into my eyes and I could see the knowledge of my words reaching him. He nodded again slowly. “You must feel that you are doomed no matter what path you choose.”
“INDEED!” I roared and laughed again, relief filling me.
“So what do you choose?” My son’s calm voice brought my mirth to an end. “How do you choose the right path?”
Taking his hand, I began to walk towards the wall. Upon reaching it, I motioned for him to sit down on it, and I jumped up beside him. “Gandalf once taught me that the best decision that can be made is one that is for the best of the most.”
“Meaning that the more people who benefit, the better the decision?”
I nodded an assent. “This is the first thing I take into consideration whenever making a decision. `Where can I do the greatest good?’ I ask myself. If I have two answers, but one only benefits a few people, while another would benefit more, I would choose the latter.”
“But what if your decision, while it helps some, hurts others?”
Why did the boy have to be so confounded complex at the moment?!
“Being king means you have a great weight. It’s you who is responsible for all that goes on beneath you. And the people trust you. It’s a great trust. One that isn’t given freely. It’s earned. And respected. I respect my people. And they me. So my people know that, when I make a decision, or a decree, I’ve thought of all of them. First and foremost, they’re my importance. So what I do must benefit them above all others.”
“But Arnor and Gondor are vast, father.” Eldarion breathed. “That’s a lot of people to look out for!”
“Indeed! Are you hinting that perhaps I’m too old, too feeble, not up to the task?” I teased, giving him a sideways glance. “I am, after all, nearing 170.”
“Not that I would EVER suggest you `old’ or `feeble’ father,” my son teased right back. “I was merely stating an obvious point.”
I grinned. “And a good and true one at that,” I noted. “You’re right. Arnor and Gondor are vast. But the people respect the King. They WANT a king. And that makes my reign just a tad bit easier!”
Eldarion chuckled. “I imagine so. Always easier to be King when your subjects WANT you to be.”
“I don’t know so much that they want ME to be king, but they want a king. It just so happens I’m the king. In fact, I know there are those in Arnor and Gondor who have no desire for ME to be king.”
“Followers of Denethor. Sadly, there is still bad blood there. And that bad blood has those not pleased with my turning over Ithilien to the `slovenly son’. The `son who didn’t support his father’. Recall, Faramir, while loved by many, was already unpopular for wanting to promote peace while his father just wanted to win the war.”
“Do you think peace will come in your lifetime, father?” my son’s youthful voice questioned.
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I don’t know, Eldarion. With the defeat of Sauron and the destruction of the Ring there’s already a peace here that Middle-earth hasn’t known for a long time. But do I think there will ever truly be perfect peace?!”
I paused for a moment and glanced out across the valley, noting the remnants of darkness that still hung where Mordor once stood.
“No, Eldarion,” I concluded. “I don’t believe such will ever come to pass.”