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A Star to Steer Him By

Night was deepening even more over a small isthmus on the river of Andúin. Three sturdy, but delicate looking, boats — the work of Elves as one could recognize — were lying on the shore, and the profiles of eight people, varying in size, were gathered about in odd groups around a small fire. They were close to the boats, and the shadows of the trees circled them as if to protect them, and a small breeze was rising and dying continuously. It was a clear evening, and silver moonlight reflected off the companions’ faces, creating a somewhat eerie effect but for the golden light of the fire.

The four smallest figures — the Hobbits — sat in one ‘group.’ Peregrin Took — Pippin — and Meriadoc Brandybuck — Merry — were the two talking and squabbling the loudest of all, yet smiles never left their faces. It had something to do over dinner — which the others, frankly, were not surprised about — and Samwise was watching them intently, sitting on his pack. Frodo — the golden glint of the Ring hidden behind his shirt — was looking at them as well, but he seemed troubled instead and a faraway glint was in his eyes.

As for the others, Boromir was keeping to himself, polishing his sword, and Gimli was once again fingering the gift from the Lady Galadriel, wondering what he should make and encase with it. The Sindarin Elf was up in one of the trees, his mute state perhaps providing the fact that he was listening to the song around him. The companions each took to their own things. It was already near midnight — and the night was considerably getting darker, for some reason — but the companions were not lulled to sleep, although Aragorn suspected that Legolas was resting his soul for a while on the tree.

As for Aragorn, the Elfstone he held in his hands, playing about it aimlessly. The silvery green stone had been crafted in the shape of a bird, its wings outstretched in flight. It was old, far older than him, crafted in the age of Galadriel herself - but only the deep light of the stone really revealed its ancientness. Other than that it seemed fresh as the dawn’s dew, but even as the Ranger gazed upon it he was troubled.

Legolas, who had not been resting at all but perceiving the night for any danger and listening to everyone gathered around the fire, observed that his companion and friend was disturbed, so he noiselessly leaped down from the tree and strode — only causing Gimli to glance up as he passed by him — to Aragorn.

Not meaning to disturb anybody else who might be listening, the Elf spoke in the tongue of Elves. “Aragorn? You seemed troubled. What bothers you?”

Aragorn glanced up from the stone to the prince and smiled. “Nay, it is nothing, friend,” he said in a mild tone. He looked up at the night sky, his dark hair falling around his shoulders, and remarked, “The others should get their rest. We start early in the morning tomorrow, and it is already late.” Indeed the Hobbits had already drifted off to sleep some point or other, and Boromir was stretching and seemed to prepare for his rest.

“Do not lie,” Legolas laughed quietly as not to disturb the others. “I have known you long enough, Estel, and you are disturbed. I know so.”

Aragorn grinned sheepishly for a moment and shrugged his shoulders, only now laying his sword beside him, and leaned against a tree behind him. “Since it is my watch after yours, I shall stay up with you. I do not feel like sleep this night.” He was silent for a few minutes before Legolas broke the silence. He had seen the brooch.

“It is about Arwen, is it not?” he asked quietly.

Aragorn stirred a little and nodded slightly. “…Aye. I would have her leave and go West into the Undying Lands…. If it were not for her stubborn will,” he said, and smiled bitterly. “I do not understand why she would sacrifice her immortality at all, and she promised so years ago, in Lothlorien… And so I wonder why she has gave it to me, and it seems but yesteryear that I met her. But…" he shrugged helplessly, and then if realizing it, laughed a little. He held the Elfstone still in his hands, but did not twirl or move it. He remembered seeing it that time. He felt loving and grateful that Arwen would stay by his side, but also guilty that he was dooming her to the doom of men... An end that no Eldar should suffer.

Legolas sat down beside Aragorn, watching the fire burn. The orange-scarlet-golden - ay, there were so many colors like the waterfall crashing - flames danced in its stable position merrily, keeping company and warmth for them. Each flame was never the same; such were things of nature. No two leaves, no two snowflakes, no two people - they were not the same.

So it was a while before Legolas spoke. "I believe... that she did gave it, not only for love, but to guide you. It is as the Lady Galadriel said when she gave her gift to Frodo... This was meant to guide you out of darkness and into the light... To keep and preserve hope - you, Estel. I promised that I would protect you, for she knew you would protect others. She guides you from the darkness."

Aragorn looked down at the Elfstone. It shone at him. He fastened it on, and closed his eyes. "The Elfstone... to guide me out of the night that surrounds me into dawn, when everything shall be fair and the light shall be tainted by no evil, and no sufferings as great as the one of the darkness shall haunt me or any other. Out of the night whose shadows surround my path, and so I can always follow the bird, the star to dawn until I at last can open my eyes and behold my destiny without fear or despair."

Legolas listened to his friend silently and held his hand to comfort him. He knew his heart was still troubled - the destiny he would face, the uncertain future of the Quest in which he guided and lead - it added up more to the worry of his bethroed and beloved.

His eyes opened, the silvery blue orbs looking faraway, lost in his own world. "'A star to steer him by,' and so I follow and hope, should I despair and be lost," he murmured quietly.

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