Disclaimer: All events, places and characters belong to JRR Tolkien. Much as I wish to steal Eldarion for an OC – it isn't happening, and it isn't so.
With many thanks to Acacea, Sphinx and Lyllyn for all help. And Lindorien, whose Gladiator impression made the difference. :)
Beyond the Western Stars
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars...'
-- from Tennyson's Ulysses.
The Steward's messenger ran, breathless and sweating, into one of the small offices that dotted the harbour. 'The Prince, the Prince,' he panted. 'I bring tidings from Minas Tirith. I must see Prince Eldarion immediately!'
'Why, he left for the city at sunrise,' said one of the young naval officers, surprised. 'Alone, at that. You've missed him by a whole morn.'
The man slumped against a wall and mopped his forehead dolefully. ''Tis the King,' he pronounced. 'He is...that is, we have been told that he is leaving.'
His heart had clenched with icy dread as he watched the tide turn that dawn, and Eldarion knew at once that he could not afford to waste a moment. Hard years had taught him to mind the terrible foresight that had fallen to him from both kindreds of his blood. Without pause for thought, he had saddled his horse and ridden hard, stopping only when he reached the gates of Minas Tirith.
It was a beautiful day, all sunshine and breezes. The birds sang madly from the trees, but the world of men beneath them was quiet, shivering on the brink of they knew not what. He began walking, slowed by an oppressive silence and the white faces that turned to him, bowing as he passed. He realised at some point that his clothes were still stiff with sea salt. He stripped himself of the dark, heavy cloak, and passed it unceremoniously to a guard at hand.
A line rang out in his head, seemingly irrelevant. Out of the great sea I am come. Where have I heard that before? he wondered distractedly, his thoughts awhirl.
He quickened his pace, almost running the last few steps to the House of Kings, and strode within. So Aragorn saw his son, tall and unbent, and felt a sudden current of love and pride flash in his veins. The hand that reached for his in silence was as rough and knotted as his own; but the face was the face of an elven lord, high and beautiful, and the braids gleamed so black that they seemed almost blue in the dim light of the room.
'Sire,' he said, bowing over the old hand. 'Could you not have sent for me earlier?'
It seemed an empty thing to say. They had spoken together of this in days past, had felt it nearing each year. No sorrow between you and I, son. -- No atar, no sorrow. Are we not travellers, journeymen, you and I? Yet it was with childlike confusion that he lifted his eyes to the king's and was struck anew with the wonder of the thing, that such a man could die. He had seen death at close quarters, and once or twice been near enough to it himself, to conceive of his own mortality. But for all that, it took him a vast exercise of comprehension to believe that his father could be so fallible.
'You are here now,' Aragorn smiled. 'What of your white ladies?'
He had sometime taken to gentle jest in referring to his son's sea-madness, calling his ships his 'white ladies'. Eldarion smiled at the old joke, a shy, uncertain smile that Aragorn remembered from a distant time when his son had stood barely as tall as his shoulder. His heart grew heavier.
'The white ladies travel further each time. We will chart new waters soon,' he replied.
'Well will you do so. For do not forget who you are, heir of Eärendil; son of his sons, mighty among men and elves.'
'And yet yours will be the greater voyage, Lord,' he said softly, his eyes suddenly bright with unshed tears. For I believe there is light and not darkness beyond the circles of this world. He turned his head away abruptly, shutting out his father's gaze. It was a simple thought they had broached at various times in their long exchanges about everything and nothing. Never had he wanted to trust it more desperately.
Later, he would bury his burning eyes in his wife's shoulder and ask her with quiet vehemence, promise me. Promise me that you will not grieve when I go, little one.
'Come, Eldarion,' said the king, 'there is a duty I must do by you yet.'
In silence he turned back and received the tokens of the realm – the crown, the sceptre – and laid them aside. Then a light flashed in Aragorn's eyes as he took Andúril from its sheath and passed it to him, hilt first. The dull shaft of light fell upon both faces, and Eldarion's was one of a man who sees great visions before him.
'It sings of the Ages,' he said faintly, as if in a dream.
'Ever it will call to the hand that wields it, my son. You hear of the Kings of old. And I – I have heard of the Kings to come.'
He dropped to his knees, composure shattered, frightened at last. 'Atar', he whispered, 'atarinya, what will I do without you?'
Aragorn raised a gentle hand and laid it upon the proud head. His son lowered his eyes instinctively, like a man receiving a benediction. 'Great deeds, King Eldarion. Beloved of your people will you be, honoured and esteemed as the sea-kings of old.'
'Even so,' he answered, 'my greatest honour is in being named the son of Elessar.'
The grief of parting hung heavy over them, but their eyes were clear and voices firm at the last. 'Mind that sword arm,' said the old king. 'It will not take much more abuse without rest. You have ever been heedless in such matters.'
'Your word is my command. Though I beg you to remember what a tireless tutor I had and let it soften your judgement, for long has he been renowned as the greatest swordsman in an age of this world.'
It was all over. There was nothing more to be said. Perhaps there never had been. Had they not long shared that perfect comradeship that requires no speech for understanding, no backward glance to bid goodbye? He turned to leave, raising his mother's hand to his lips on the way out. The daylight was blinding.
In the early evening gloom, he felt a light breeze rise westwards, and heard a voice call to him upon it, clear and strong as a calm sea wind. Fare you well, mariner.
He almost smiled. Fare you well, Ranger, he said back silently.
The rain began to fall and did not stop.
Note: 'Out of the great sea … I am come …': Is part of the Oath of Kings, the words spoken by Elendil in Quenya, that translate completely to "Out of the Great Sea to Middle Earth I am come. In this place I will abide, and my heirs, unto the ending of the world."