The Company journeying to Harad was about to depart. Families were saying last minute good-byes and wives were crying on their husband’s shoulder, not knowing if they would ever see their loved ones again. Amidst all of the commotion and preparations, Elessar and Arwen looked ready to kill anyone who interrupted them.
“Arwen, this is a perfectly safe plan-“
“Safe for a Ranger! You are not who you once were and no matter how much you wish the opposite, you will never be that person again. You are not Strider, the outcast of Bree. You are not Thorongil, loyal vassal to both Thengel of Rohan and Ecthelion of Gondor. You are not Estel, foster son of Elrond Peredhil. You are no longer even Aragorn son of Arathorn, Chieftain of the Dúnedain of Arnor and hidden heir to the throne of Gondor. You are the High King Elessar Telcontar of the Reunified Kingdoms! And as such, you have a duty to your people to protect yourself above all others. I am afraid that that duty includes not trampling all over Harad and playing assassin to a Haradric King!”
Elessar shushed her when they began to receive stares. “You would do well to not speak of some things in the wrong company.”
Just then a loud horn blew, signaling all soldiers to return to their ranks and await the King. “Arwen, I must leave you now. Remember, Eldarion is the regent of Gondor in my place and I am sure he would appreciate it if you did not treat him like a child. Do not interfere with his ruling unless there is a call for desperate measures. As far as I am concerned, he is the King of Gondor during my absence. Namárië!” with a quick kiss, he mounted Roheryn and gave the signal to depart. With victory in the air and spirits high, the company of fifteen thousand full told, five thousand on horse and the remaining ten thousand on foot left Gondor, not knowing that this would be one of the worst wars they had ever experienced.
Aragorn groaned. They were currently at camp and a few minutes ago he had finally managed to escape from his guards. They were on his tail and would soon be able to detect him. Aragorn had not been given a chance to exercise the Ranger part of his being for many months now and he was losing his touch a bit. “He should be some where around here…I could swear to Eru that I saw movement!” A guard muttered.
They were surrounding him…there was no way to dash behind a different tree without being noticed. The King then decided to reveal himself. It would be much less humiliating if he gave up freely rather than taken by force. He knew that Eldarion had some friends in the Royal Guard who all would undoubtedly risk the wrath of their King to get this story to their Prince who would inevitably tell Arwen. He would never hear the end of it.
However, unfortunately for Aragorn, just as he was about to do a fake attempt to get away, he was caught by none other than Beregond, whom he had appointed to the White Company of Ithilien back in his first days as King.
Beregond, bowing low, said, “We thought we had lost you, My Lord King. Your valet panicked when you were not in your tent. Now, come peacefully and I shall not have to restrain you.” He added the last part in with a tiny smile.
As Faramir visited the White City often and Aragorn Ithilien, Beregond and the King had become somewhat of friends over the years. It was a joke between him, Faramir and Beregond that the King never came peacefully when he was caught in his little escapades.
After being escorted back to the camp site, Elessar’s valet insisted on serving his King every at every possible second, but the King ordered him to bed. Out here, in the wild, he felt like Strider and he wanted to keep it that way.
Calling a small Council in his tent, Elessar summoned Faramir, Elphir, Elchirion and Legolas. “So, how close to În***ar* do you suggest we be before attacking? I myself shall be headed for Înar, the closest of four targets so that I may arrive back the soonest to settle the army. Elphir, when Faramir, Legolas, Éomer and I leave, you will be in charge with Elchirion as your second.”
Both bowed their heads and recited the line that Imrahil had undoubtedly taught them, so steeped into tradition as he was. “We are yours to command, My Lord King.” All others in the spacious tent rolled their eyes but said nothing.
“Elchirion,” Elessar continued, “you shall be Ithilien’s leader throughout all of this. When we pass by Rohan, Éomer, Éomund and Éotûrac shall join us. Éomund shall be Éomer’s regent and Éotûrac shall replace Legolas.” All nodded in consent.
Legolas then voiced his question. “Aragorn, should we not travel at least part of the way in pairs? We can split up when he have to.”
“A good point. Let us see who may travel with who.” The King removed a large map of the four countries from a stack of papers on the floor. After consulting it for a moment, Aragorn voiced his decision. “As we are both traveling South, Faramir and I shall be one pair.” Neither looked particularly happy about this ruling, but it was necessary. “Needless to say, Éomer and Legolas shall travel East together. Now that we have that settled, we need to figure how far we should journey into Harad before we depart.”
Faramir was the only one who offered an answer. “I suggest about one hundred and fifty leagues into Harad so that we are all about equal in distance.”
“Reasonable” Aragorn agreed after a moment. He then turned to the two sons of Imrahil. “Now, if anything happens to any of us, do not panic. Simply keep marching the army towards Încuntar. I should be back within a month. If I am absent for more two, then I have most likely failed in my attempt to kill Harad’s King. King Éomer should be about two months. Legolas will be about six months and Faramir a year. If any of us are a month past due, send a messenger back to Minas Tirith addressed to Queen Arwen. She will alert a qualified individual to come to any of these countries and finish the job. That individual will also search for us. If we are found alive, we will be healed to the best extent that he can and taken back to the White City. If we are found dead, the body will be taken back to the White City where a proper funeral shall be held. Any questions?”
As no one had any, Elessar announced the Council dismissed and went to sleep thinking of the long day ahead of him.
*Încuntar is of my own invention. I have made it the capital of Harad.