There were eleven years between the two brothers in age, but that made no difference to their arguments. The elder son, Connor, resembled his father very much, but the younger son resembled their mother. Connor was in his nineteenth year and Darcy in his eighth. They lived at the city of Minas Tirith with their parents, Aragorn the King Elessar and Queen Arwen Evenstar. However their parents, being the King and Queen, were often away on royal journeys visiting their subjects. They were away at the time that the brothers had another of their many quarrels.
Shouting and punching, the boys fought. The Steward, in charge of the city when the King was not there, came running up as lesser servants informed him of the fight. “Prince Connor! Prince Darcy! Would that your father were here to see this!”
“Would that you were not!” Connor snapped, pushing his younger brother to the floor.
“I am in charge when your father is not here. I.”
“He never is here.” The taller boy yelled and stormed off to his private rooms.
Young Darcy was helped up by some servants who emerged from all over the place once the furious older Prince has disappeared. “Where is Father, Theo?”
The Steward brushed the small boy’s hair out of his face. “You are not hurt, I hope, sir?”
“No, I thank you, but where is my father and when will he return?”
“He is to return in a few days. Maybe they will arrive today.” The Steward reassured the boy. Darcy nodded and then strutted off with Theo, telling the adult all about his brother’s lowliness. The Steward and younger Prince were united in their dislike for the older Prince. “You see, because Connor was in the War of the Ring, he believes that he can rule over me, but he cannot,” was the last that the other servants heard the little boy say before his high voice was out of earshot.
* * *
Connor sat, with his knees tucked up to his chest, on the windowsill of his private chamber and watched the river flow through the courtyard of their home. The waterfall seemed to dance in the sun and the sunlight reflected off the water.
Suddenly Connor slipped off the windowsill onto the grass below his window and ran across the lawn. He was wearing only a linen shirt and woollen trousers, perhaps not the appropriate clothes for a prince, but he favoured such garments, remembering his time as a wanderer.
As he hurried over the lawn, he unbuttoned his shirt. When he reached the river, he dropped his shirt on the grass and dived into the cool water. Still boiling with anger, he swam strongly underwater to the waterfall and surfaced on the other side. He looked through the curtain of tumbling water and saw the palace appear to move as the water moved. He turned to the rocks and scrambled up and out of the water.
Quite high in the rock face was a small opening. Connor scaled the rock carefully but quickly to the opening and climbed through. On the other side was a largish cave geologically carved out of the hill of rock. The only entrances for the cave were the way Connor had come or climbing through a small hole in the roof of the cave, which led to the small wood outside Minas Tirith. The only sounds were of the water rushing through the woodland over one side of the top of the cave and then splashing into the lower river via the waterfall.
Dripping water, Connor strode backwards and forwards angrily, longing for his parents to return. He hated his princely life and wished for his wandering life back again. His father had been a Ranger; Connor wanted to become one too. Hearing a gentle thud behind him, he turned and grinned. A tall, nimble, blond-haired Elf had dropped through the hole in the ceiling. The Elf and boy were friends, both having been part of the Fellowship of the Ring throughout the War of the Ring. “Connor, I wondered if you were here. I came to see if you would wish to visit the hobbits with me.”
“I should love to, Legolas. Darcy is as irksome as always, but my parents are not home yet. I promised I would remain here until their return.”
“When are they to be back?” The Elf asked, sitting down on the rock floor. The boy sat on a rocky ledge in the wall, his legs dangling.
“Soon, today is a possibility.”
“Then I will remain here until they arrive. Would that be suitable?”
A grin lit up Connor’s face and he hastily said, “Yes!” The Elf smiled back at him.
“What news of Gimli?” Connor asked. The Elf and boy exchanged news of mutual friends until they heard the blowing of trumpets. They jumped to their feet simultaneously and ran to the opening of the cave. Together, they climbed down the rocks and dived into the water. By the time they swam to the shore and Connor flung his shirt on, the Royal Company had already been greeted by Darcy and Theo. Connor and his Elf-friend ran across the lawn and welcomed the newcomers.
* * *
In the evening of the same day, Connor finally found time for a private talk with his father, as they sat together in a fire-lit hall. They had grown close during their days wandering Middle-earth together and during the War of the Ring, but since Aragorn’s marriage to Connor’s mother and the subsequent birth of Darcy, their closeness had fallen and it was rare for them to speak together without others nearby. “Father?” Connor began. “I. I wish to become a Ranger.”
Connor saw his father’s knuckles go white as his hands clutched the arms of his chair. Aragorn turned to face his elder son. “A Prince is not a Ranger, my son.” His low voice said gently.
“You were a Ranger once.” Connor retorted.
“The circumstances are different for you than they were for me.” Aragorn said calmly.
Connor stood up, the firelight glinting on his features. “Father, I wandered for almost four years with you or by myself. I loved that life.”
“It was a harsh life.” Aragorn recalled his days as a Ranger.
“But it was a good life, Father. You are a good King, but if you had not been a Ranger, you would be a different person.”
There was silence and then Aragorn glanced up at his son. “Why do you suddenly wish this, Connor?”
Connor explained his love for the forests, the rivers, the wildness. He told his father of the boredom he felt in the palace and the freedom he longed for as a Ranger. He reminded his father that he knew much of the lore of nature and of the rough life he missed.
Aragorn stared into the fire watching the flickering shapes and wondered at his son. “You are my son and a Prince, you cannot become a Ranger. It is too dangerous.”
“For me, but not for you, is that it?” Connor barked. His father stood up suddenly and they stood face-to-face. “I am not your little boy any more, Father. I am nineteen years old and I wish to become a Ranger. You were one and you are a fraud if you refuse me this.”
“Do not speak to your father so, my son.” Queen Evenstar joined her husband and elder son in the hall.
“He wishes to become a Ranger, but he must not.” Aragorn told his wife, as Connor glared at his smirking brother who had followed their mother into the room.
Arwen glanced at the tall boy and clutched his hand. “Indeed you must not, Connor. A Ranger’s life is a dangerous life and you must stay here with us.”
“You and Father are never here.” Connor said slowly, before marching out of the room.
Darcy sat on the fireside stool and watched his parents talk softly. “He can never become a Ranger. It is too dangerous.” Arwen rested her head on her husband’s shoulder as he gazed into the fire.