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The Name of a King  by Mirach

2. To be a king

All was lost. They were coming. Cardolan will fall under the shadow of Angmar, and the ancient barrows in the hills will be the only reminder of the once proud folk.

All was lost.

The sky was dark – it was going to rain. Not that it would change anything about the number of enemies standing against the Dúnedain army. Yet for some reason, it was the last drop in the chalice of despair. They were going to die, he knew it. He just hoped to see the sun for the last time.

Whispers spread among the soldiers. The Witch-king! The Witch-king of Angmar was here! The dreaded name was a rope binding the arms of men with fear, the cold slowly creeping into the pulsing blood and stealing its warmth. No ray of sun shone through the heavy clouds.

A scream. Raw like nails digging into naked skin, chilling like the frost in old bones, a dagger of ice stabbing through the heart and twisting the blade.

He resisted the urge to turn and run, to hide somewhere. There was nowhere to run. They were going to die.

He had seen much of death already. He had seen her many faces, but only rarely the calm and peaceful face of the death of old age. The times were hard, and death often wore an ugly face, smeared with blood and contorted with pain. And the eyes – eyes filled with dread. What they have seen, he wondered. He did not want to die. But he would.

It began to rain.

A dark mass, unstoppable tide – the army of Angmar moved.

He was frozen in place. Wordless dread - the fear like a heavy load bound to his limbs. And the drops of rain falling, touching the hands… the face… like the cold fingers of death.

We should move forwards, he thought. We should meet them in the field and die with honour, like true Dúnedain. So what are we waiting for? Somebody should give the order, break the spell and give the will to move to the limbs leaden with fear. But who? Who led the army of Cardolan and Arthedain?

He looked around, searching for a steady point, for a face that held only courage and determination, no fear. But there was none. He saw the same look in the faces of the other men – fear and despair, looking for encouragement to walk with honour into the arms of death. Their looks were directed to him….

"My lord?" the man next to him whispered, trying to hide the shaking in his voice.

He looked at the man mutely, the surprise almost overcoming the dread. Who was he, he wondered? What did they expect from him?

He took a deep breath. He knew he should say something, but he could not find his voice nor the right words. Again he looked to the sky, hoping to see at least one ray of light – one last ray. The sky was dark, covered with heavy clouds. No light. No hope.

"My King, will you give the order?" another man asked anxiously.

A… King? He was a king?

It all came to him in the moment. He was Arveleg, the king of Arthedain who came to aid Cardolan, for darkness spreading from Angmar threatened the three Dúnedain kingdoms to the east of Misty Mountains, the three realms that once all belonged to Arnor. It was not his choice to be a king in these troubled times. It was not a privilege, but a responsibility. Even when he was afraid just like the others, he could not show fear. He had to be the steady point when everything around crumbled.

Suddenly he felt the weight of responsibility on his shoulders. They were all going to death, and he had to lead them. He wished he would be just a soldier, he wished he could rely on someone else to have the courage for all. But he could not. He was a king and had to act like one. Even without hope…

"Sons of Arnor! Dúnedain! My brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!"

He did not know where the words came from, it was like an echo of some other words, spoken long ago, or just waiting to be spoken. He saw determination returning to the faces of men. He saw the light of Westernesse in every one of them, a flame rekindled by the spark of his words. He felt the flame burning high in him, thawing the cold in the stunned limbs, stirring the passion of fight in his blood.

It rained. Cold, heavy drops. They will cool the wounds, wash the blood away. The last day, the last hour. Soon they will be all dead. It was not a reason to be numbed with fear. It was a reason to live the hour. He looked at the dark army, and he smiled.

"For Arnor!" he called, and charged forwards. The men followed him, a steady line shining with polished steel. With a smile on his lips he fought, even as the dark army cut deep dents into their defences, and his arms were going numb from effort of lifting the sword. His blood fell with the rain, and the soil drank both.

Then he saw a figure of darkness in front of him. His eyes met the Witch-king's, and he recognized his death. He knew he would die as a king. Eternal sleep in the barrows of Cardolan until the world changed… He did not falter. The flame in his eyes burned high even when his sword broke under the Witch-king's mace.

There was a moment of terrible pain, but it soon passed. Drops of rain were falling down on his face from the dark clouds. The cries faded. Then he was being carried, a swaying motion like the calm waves of the sea. It was dark when the swaying stopped. The eternal darkness of a barrow…

A/N: Aragorn's/ Arveleg's speech is, with slight changes, taken from Peter Jackson's movie The Return of the King

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